On Art & the Love of Life

Greetings and welcome back to Journeys! In the spirit of late October this months sharing will be about the rich world of feelings and emotions, with a special focus on their relevance and importance in the arts, magic and spiritual realisation. For students of IIH I will be sharing information on the astral body and the Water region of the mental body.

The magic circle, by John William Waterhouse

In beginning to set out my thoughts for this writing I find myself searching for a word or phrase that doesn’t seem to exist, at least in English or German, the languages I know. It’s an important word for an important thing that most of us will recognise, especially if we are involved in anything related to the arts, but really everyone should recognize it in different ways. Although some words come close or communicate parts of it I’m unable to come up with a word or a phrase that encapsulates it precisely, so instead I’m going to present you with several examples of this unnameable thing and hope that you are able to understand what I am referring to as well as to recognise it in your own experience.

Let’s start with the actor or actress preparing to take on a role using something like the Stanislavsky method wherein they have to inhabit the role from the inside. They will use various methods to explore the different aspects of the role, trying to find their own unique way into that character so that they can express it realistically, for example they might use improvisation with other actors to explore how their character might behave in various situations, creative visualizations to imagine themselves as the character in different circumstances, or practice emotional recall of their own personal experiences (love, loss, etc) in an attempt to relate those emotions to those of their character in a particular scene, and so on. In all of this work the hope is for a magical moment when everything just ‘clicks’ and the character comes to life for the performer. It might never come – and that’s ok – but if it does the circumstances under which it does are slippery. It might come during make up when they put on the long blond wig for the first time, or at some point during rehearsals, or while they are relaxing in the bath. Sometimes it can be triggered by a random event or a chance meeting, but however it comes there is no mistaking it, even though it is different every time and always just as mysterious and thrilling as it always is. Suddenly, the characterisation is real for the performer and so it can become real for the audience so long as the performer follows that guidance where it leads. Interestingly when this occurs it frequently has a cascade effect on other performers, especially those who have roles closely related to our own within the performance.

Similarly, there are the countless stories of writers who experience the same process with the characters in their novels. In the beginning of writing about these people they are near complete strangers. Gradually, like shards of pottery being excavated carefully from the ground and reassembled, they reveal themselves in greater detail and their overall shape, colour, motivation and history become clearer and clearer in the mind of the writer. The critical point occurs when these characters, which we must remember have been entirely crafted by the imagination, start to decide things for themselves and so become drivers of the plot, potentially taking the story in unforeseen directions. Like windup toys the author has invested them with life by priming their mechanisms to such a degree that what was deep inside them energetically is exposed, unleashed and made manifest, taking control of its own innate destiny. The fragmentary pottery shards have been formed into a vessel that can actually hold wine. Again, this can happen at any time and under all kinds of circumstances and it is always mysterious and thrilling. And again, interestingly, when this happens to one character within the narrative it frequently cascades over into other characters like a benevolent virus.

Another example – the dancer hears music that they have never heard before and seduced by it they begin to move their body to its rhythm. At first there is a level of thinking involved but as the dance proceeds the dancer finds himself or herself in the intuitive flow of the music, able to perceive what is coming next even when the music shifts or stops dramatically. It’s like living one second ahead of the beat. The dance itself has become a living thing bridging the dancer in some kind of entanglement with the music, and the body moves without thinking. Thinking, like plotting for the writer, interrupts the moments, chokes off the inspiration. The musician can also feel this thing happening when they ‘lose themselves’ in the playing of an instrument, a strange term for what feels essentially more like finding oneself in it.

One more example which many people will recognise – you walk into a room and there they are, someone whom you just know is going to be important in your life – a lover, partner in business or just a friend – and despite the fact that you know zero about them, somehow they instantly stand out from the crowd even without having spoken a word or even moved. It’s beyond sexual attraction or mere personality, it’s instead like you already have history. It doesn’t always have to be agreeable, but whatever it is it is just there. This is like those times when you just know your train is going to be late that morning without having checked the schedule, the times when you know seconds ahead who is calling or messaging before the phone even rings, and those times when you know what is going to happen moments before it does but not with enough time to say so, despite the fact that none of these things are logically predictable. If this is just chemistry, neurotransmitters, animal magnetism or the instincts of rivalry its pretty darn smart stuff that immediately knows all kinds of freaky details about things that it has no business knowing.


In all of these moments there is some part of us that is perceiving and recognizing emotional truth. It’s not a guess, not a fabrication, not a coincidence and not uncommon. In fact I would argue that we are doing it all the time but we fail to observe it. You might call it a bullshit detector, but it is more about detecting truth than its absence. It requires no explanation because when it happens it is its own explanation – we simply know it for what it is, which is something truthful to us. Words can be used to describe it, even to evoke it in the case of the writer, but it is innately beyond words. It feels like living poetry.

In the artistic examples there is also something going on as a result of this recognition of emotional truth – something intangible or imaginary takes on a life of its own and the artist becomes its midwife, partner or instrument. This is a more magical phenomena which arises when enough emotional truth and enough resonance with something that feels significant to us is accumulated that we connect with something fundamentally transcendent and apart from ourselves and it expresses itself as a living intelligence with a will, an act of astral animation. For the film maker this often happens in the editing process – the film itself comes to life with the assemblage and orchestration of its musical score, cuts, effects, choice of takes and more importantly through the sincerity and truthfulness of the creators with respect to a guiding vision that calls all the shots.

When audiences then witness something that has been invested with enough emotional truth, they recognise and resonate with its significance and the living force of the creation leaps off of the page, screen, stage or recording and grows in power as it is freed into the world to reproduce. Every person will be free to draw their own particular nuances and draw their own meaning and truth from that experience, but it will all be facilitated by the combined work of the artists and creators in initially doing the same thing. In my view, it has ceased to belong only to them. It now belongs to everyone who encounters it as well. What they make of it may be very different to what the creators intended, which is called controversy, or more rarely creative genius because it is open to various interpretations, but the creators can always be grateful and satisfied if people perceive meaning and significance in their output.

In every act of true magic there beats this moment, this unnameable conviction that what we are doing is undeniably true, for it is this faculty that causes the magic to feel real to us, and thus to eventually become real in substance to others. In the hermetic view this faculty is intimately connected to the Akasha principle as it manifests through our ongoing astral experience, which is perceived through the Water Element region of our mental body. In other words it is a property of our having an astral body or soul which is able to directly experience the truth of the astral realm, and our ability to perceive and then correctly interpret the truth we encounter with this astral awareness is a property of the Water Element of our spirit or mental body. We can have a very strong and highly developed astral body capable of coping with a vast array of astral force, but if the Water Element of the mental body is not clear and strong then we will lack the ability to discern the truth of what we feel. It can also easily overwhelm us because we will not have the discipline of detaching from the experience to actually observe what it really is – we will just be taken by it, like a swimmer in a riptide or whirlpool. This could make us vulnerable to manipulation by resonant astral intelligences that are able to deceive or delude us. Most commonly these people conflate their own subjective truth with objective truth – they assign meaning to the experience which is theirs and theirs alone, meaning which represents personal truth and is instead perceived as a universal truth. To see the deeper, more universal truth of the astral we have to have a maturely developed Water Element awareness in our mental body, the body which perceives and thus informs. This comes through enlightenment, through lifetimes of spiritual contemplation and practice, but there are a vast number of techniques for training both the power of the astral body and the clarity and purity of the Water Element region of the mental body. I am going to share some with you here.

First, I want you take on board some concepts so that what follows will make sense. The first of these is that human awareness can be said to have three fundamental parts, a physical part which relates directly to the physical senses of the body and all its sensations as well as to interacting with the material world, an astral part which is largely made up of its personal experience (including thought and feeling), which we can call our awareness of nuance and significance, and a mental part which is engaged in the perception and interpretation of meaning, truth and notional concepts. The astral part is an intermediary between the mental and the physical part of the awareness, a transceiver serving to bind the mental to the physical and thus allow both to interact together.

We can conceive of each part as a circle wherein everything inside the circle is a part of us and everything outside of the circle is an unknown or unfamiliar part of the physical, astral or mental realm. Now if we imagine an expansion of our awareness as an expansion of the size of the circle we see that not only is there now more inside of the circle and therefore more awareness of ourselves but also that the circumference of the circle has also expanded so that the boundary of the unknown and unfamiliar has also increased, in other words the more we know the more we learn there is more that we do not yet know. This makes sense, because broader horizons give you more to think about. A closed mind is like a tiny circle that refuses to expand into the unknown, and may actually be collapsing in on itself. An unfit body cannot enable all the things a powerful mind wants to do, and an exhausted or burdened astral creates a blockage between mind and body. The three bodies are not interdependent since the awareness in our mental body will survive our death while our physical and astral body will not, but while we are physically alive we will experience a triple state of awareness composed of all three bodies of sensation occurring simultaneously. This is the great school of life that has souls metaphorically queuing up to take part in it, drawn to the invaluable and irreplaceable power of the tri-fold experience and its lessons, its potential to develop the full integration and expansion of the awareness of these bodies and the realms they pertain to.


The functions of these three bodies are very complex but here is a simple exercise you can do right now to demonstrate them to yourself. Choose an object in the room with which you are personally familiar. Check out size, shape, colour, texture and (if applicable) the way it smells and tastes. This is your physical body interacting with the physical universe, the universe we pay most of our attention to. It’s simple enough at first glance but actually incredibly complex, as any physicist will tell you. Now think for a moment about what the purpose of this object is, why it was created if it was created by human hands or what its function is in nature if it was not. This is your mental body interacting with the mental realm – human beings perceive the mental realm in terms of the purpose or meaning of things. If you object was a monitor, the purpose or meaning is one of displaying things. It is also pretty simple, and the concept of a purpose or meaning is something that most people will share in common. Yet like the physical universe the mental universe is infinitely vast and thus composed of an infinite variety of meaning so what appears pretty simple is again mindbogglingly complex once you scratch the surface – all ideas ultimately connect together and finally coalesce into one singular idea, the idea of infinity and hence eternity Finally, consider what your object communicates to you personally, your personal connection to its meaning and physical form. It is composed of all of your personal experience as well as what all of that signifies, its connotations. These connotations are how our astral body perceives the substance of the astral realm and because it is a deeply private and personal experience the nuances it has for you resonate only with you, although you can still find common ground over its meaning with other people who have had similar experiences with a similar object. It is also, as any amount of refection on your chosen object will demonstrate, profoundly complex and evocative of a response that we feel. It touches and stirs us on a mysterious sensory level – the astral body.

Finally take another look at your object with this understanding of these things and note how you are seeing them as one integrated experience each time you look at the object but that you are habitually focused so much on the physical input that the other parts slip into the background. Then, close your eyes and think about the object, noticing that while you are now only imagining your objects physical form its astral and mental nature is intact and unaffected. Also, notice that when you perform these exercises with animate living things the situation is more complex – with plants the meaning or purpose of the plant is not so easy to define, it requires much deeper reflection to get beyond the surface meaning that we attribute and which is really part of its significance and nuance, its astral nature. This is even more complex with animal life forms, including humans. This is because of the increasing complexity of the mental body of these things compared to inanimate human created objects. Their astra-mental body circles are bigger. Consider this fact alongside the evolutionary idea of chemical and mineral components making up the basis of carbon based life forms, with increasing biological complexity in plants and animals. The physical body is an expression of the mental (and astral) bodies. The physical form of a thing is an expression of its innate nature, its meaning and purpose. Simple concepts form simple bodies. 

Each of the bodies can also be examined through the lens of the 4 Elements, the Fire, Air, Water and Earth regions of the respective bodies, physical, astral and mental. The Fire region of each human body is situated in the head and neck area, the Air region in the shoulders, upper arms and chest, the Water region in the abdomen and the arms from elbows to wrists, and the Earth region from the hips to the soles of the feet. These Elemental divisions also occur in the physical, astral and mental realms.

Now we have to add the concept that each of these realms is filled with living beings many of whom are in their own way capable of being aware of us while we ourselves are currently largely blind to their existence, in denial actually. One of the ways that they have of communicating with us are the arts, but others include mediums, psychics, shamans and other sensitives who are able to act as intermediaries and interpreters. The astral realm is particularly powerful because it exists at the intersection between the physical and the mental realm like a cosmic crossroads or an exhange rate mechanism. 


Finally, we can now see an explanation for the examples I gave at the start of this post. If a human being is putting out a particular thought with a strong enough feeling, beings will come to play. But the human has to put in all the work, or the muses wont show. If you are doing something you love and you are consistently disciplined about doing it, they will eventually come and give life to what you are doing, whether it is with words, music, dancing, art or life in general. This does not deny you the source of creative power in your work, that’s all still your work, it’s just that the moment when it comes alive is always involving the drawing of one of these beings into the process. It’s their intelligence that possesses the imaginary character and drives it, effectively attempting to persuade its author to follow it to an innate, immanent destiny which only it may know until the appointed time comes to reveal it to the writer. It’s their power that bridges the body and soul of the dancer and musician with the living intelligence of the music itself, so that they become one. Cupid is essentially real, being an intelligence of the art of love who is drawn into the radiation of light created by two lovers who are innately destined to be joined. When these beings do show up you will know it’s not just you anymore, and you should be grateful that they are there. Some of these dwellers in the astral sea are little fish but some are leviathans, and when we are patient and quiet and blessed enough to get the attention of one of those it can be very difficult to bring it to the surface, but very joyous too, and this is the creative process. It’s also what we are attempting to do in life, our lives intended to be works of art in its highest form, creative expressions of love for life.


All this being understood, the astrology depicted in our natal charts focuses on our astral body but because our astral body is an intermediary body our astrology expresses all three levels of life, the physical astral and mental, as a singular and unified whole. Astrology doesn’t communicate all of our physical circumstances (for example it doesn’t describe our physical gender or our skin colour) nor does it describe all of our mental circumstances (it doesn’t display our degree of enlightenment or maturity, for example), but it does describe some physical and mental things because some of those things arise from or involve significant astral circumstances, and it fully describes our astral circumstances. For example our experience of poverty may arise from a blockage in our astral body which will be depicted in our birth chart. The birth chart will also show our relationship or attitude to those things which it does not directly show, for example even though it does not show our skin colour or gender it could easily show our attitude to and personal experience of being that skin colour or gender. Astrology literally does not care what skin colour or gender you are, only how you personally relate to that.

Additionally, although the Moon and Sun stand as overall indicators of the astral (soul) and mental (spirit) awareness respectively, and the ruler of the ascendant can be taken as an indicator of physical awareness, it’s not as simple as that and these indicators are not the sole indicators of astral, mental and physical awareness in the chart, these things are spread throughout the chart and are present in every part of it. Some parts have more affinity for the mental and some for the astral, but no part of the chart is without an astral, mental and physical expression, or solely focused in one realm of expression. While we live and breath in a physical form, every part of us is physical, astral and mental, in differing degrees.

In the course of instruction provided by Franz Bardon the magician is training themselves to perceive astral truth all the time but is primarily directed to develop in this respect at two steps, step 2 and step 7. During step two the astral exercises are focused on developing the astral body and the astral equilibrium and part of this involves transformation of the Water Element, refining the character through various methods. Step 2 in respect to the topic of this post is really about purifying and establishing the power and force of the astral body, which is to say it’s about building up the muscles which allow us to swim in deeper astral waters, muscles which are necessary for later steps. Step 7 however concerns itself with the mental equilibrium and it’s here (in the mental exercises) that Bardon instructs us to develop the Water Element of the mental body. This is the specific part of initiation in which the magician develops their capacity to perceive the objective truth of things, in this case (with the mental Water Element) the objective truth (Akasha) of the astral realm. Thus the two parts involved in the experiences I have described above are specifically addressed and developed during step 2 and then during step 7. Step 2 is mostly about clearing out, sweeping up and putting in order, while step 7 is about broadening the horizons of the Elements, opening the spirit to new levels of interaction with them. It’s the latter part that enables us to apprehend the deeper realities of what we encounter with our various bodies and to recognise truth when we encounter it, among other things. In terms of astral experience the Water Element of the mental body is the detached, perceiving part and the astral body is the receiving and immersive, entangled part.

However this training is to enable a person to perceive and ultimately animate astral significance at will, and to understand this fully. It does not mean that this can only happen when this is the case. So called psychic and spiritual experiences of any kind do not completely depend on a certain degree of development because ‘higher’ (subtler, more ethereal or more illuminated) planes of awareness can always interact with ‘lower’ (denser, more mundane, or less illuminated) ones, most especially through the unifying astral quality of unconditional love. This means that sometimes our Greater Selves and sometimes other entities can enable these experiences for us. Sometimes they just happen because we are working intensely and with focus, like the writer, the dancer or the actress. Other times they are simply thrust upon us or temporarily arise as various factors align. Some of these factors are astrological. Depending on what these astrological factors are they can be affecting just us or millions of people at once, each in a different way, either at birth or at some point in life within a specific time frame.

Venus is one of the major astrological factors in this area because Venus represents the flow of astral force, and being in this flow is a key enabler of these experiences. With a strong and powerful connection to astrological Venus our emotional body, which is the engine of our astral body, is made capable of profound resonance. This means that it will be able to sense the movement, energy and quality of the astral in its immediate environment, so that the person will be able to feel what is happening very directly. Some people are born with this ability to resonate emotionally with what is around them, to strongly sense it with their emotional body, and from an astrological perspective they will typically have Venus in a prominent position in the chart. This means Venus will be in one of her own signs (Taurus or Libra), in her exaltation (Pisces), powerfully positioned in terms of aspects and/or accidentally dignified by her position (for example, conjunct the ascendant or the midheaven or in the 1st temple).

Additionally anyone can temporarily experience a major boost to their connection with Venus as she progresses and transits or is activated by progressions or transits. For example someone who was born with Venus in Aquarius will likely have their Venus progress into Pisces (and so reach exaltation) at some point in their life and then experience an extended phase (lasting many years) of greater flowing connection to what Venus represents, essentially providing a boost to their astral force and their ability to sense resonance. More commonly and universally, transiting Venus will visit each of her signs and her exhaltation every year as she follows the Sun in its course through the zodiac, and every day she will rise and culminate at the ascendant and midheaven respectively, giving rise to short periods every 24 hrs when every living thing at certain locations upon the Earth is made more sensitive to what is resonating in its environment, especially when she is in Taurus, Libra or Pisces. This ‘wave’ of astral force crests at different times in different places but every location on the Earth receives it once every day for about 30 minutes or so, and in the case of Venus on the ascendant it is always within a few hours either side of daybreak. This means it can happen in the early pre-dawn hours of the morning, at dawn, or in the morning hours following dawn. For Venus on the midheaven it is in the few hours either side of the time when the Sun reaches its highest point in the sky for that day (not always midday, but often close enough). This is because the position of Venus is tethered to the position of the Sun so that she is only ever a couple of signs at most away from the Sun, often much closer. You can easily figure out when this occurs each day for your location by checking out when Venus rises and culminates there using an on-line ephemeris or chart software. In this way you can begin to observe the ebb and flow of astral force and so begin to develop your sensitivity to it. Magical work designed to increase your astral capacity and to refine it can be timed directly to the times when Venus is in any of the three aforementioned signs and rising or culminating at the place of the working. Doing so can provide a very powerful experience wherein you can feel the magic happening around you in ways you may not have noticed before.


Transits of Venus through your 5th temple, especially at the time she activates your 5th temple key, are times in which the creative power you have to bring things to life becomes infused with strong emotional power and awareness, and if you are born with powerful planets in the 5th temple you will certainly feel this as a creative draw within which never really goes away. The 5th temple of any chart is transited by Venus in this way about once every year so it is a common enough occurrence to build a ritual around. Such a ritual could involve developing your ability to recognise emotional truth and to give it expression in art or other creative acts. Usually, and I say this from experience both personal and from clients, the annual transit of Venus through the 5th temple is a time in which we fall in love as a way to funnel or express this heightened emotional power, and it doesn’t have to be falling in love with a person it can just as easily be falling in love with a place, a thing, a concept or literally anything. Here there is a subtle queue from the universe about what is really important in life and what the key ingredient is which brings a creative act to life. The Venus sphere (Netzach) is referred to in many kabbalistic writings as ‘the secret of all spiritual activity’ and this is no vain boast.

Venus also has four phases like the Moons lunar phases, a fact which is often a surprise. Like the lunar phases the phases of Venus arise from the interaction with our star the Sun. If she is behind the Sun in zodiacal order (e.g. if the Sun is in Taurus and Venus is in Aries) then she will cross the eastern horizon before the Sun every morning and perhaps be visible in the east as a morning star. If she is ahead of the Sun in zodiacal order however (for example if the Sun is in Taurus and she is in Gemini) then she will cross the western horizon after the Sun every evening and perhaps be visible in the west as an evening star. Additionally, she can be moving in either direct or retrograde motion as either an evening or morning star. The phases of Venus indicate broad phases in the expression of the emotional content of the astral realm, phases which determine the manner in which resonance is experienced and perceived. Her appearances as the morning and evening star divide between those who feel and act on those feelings spontaneously and are thus more Electric in their emotional expression (Venus Lucifer, the morning star) and those more Magnetically focused who feel after the fact (Venus Hesperus, the Evening star), in the dusk of the event, so to speak. Furthermore, the motion of Venus – direct or retrograde – divides emotional expression along external/internal types, i.e. between those whose emotional reactions are internalised and those who typically externalise them instead – so that there is a reflection of the quadrapolar magnet of the Elements in the 4 Venus phases:

• Venus Lucifer direct – spontaneous, consequences are external (Fire analogy)
• Venus Lucifer retrograde – spontaneous, consequences are internal (Air analogy)
• Venus Hesperus direct – premeditated (feeling after the event), consequences are external (Earth analogy)
• Venus Hesperus retrograde – premeditated, consequences are internal (Water analogy)

Further nuances are then added to this in consideration of the Element of the zodiacal sign that Venus is in at any given time. Venus Hesperus direct in Aries is very different to Venus Hesperus direct in Virgo, for example. Both people will tend to realise what they feel after events transpire and to externalise those feelings in some way, but the Aries Venus person may then react in a more direct or combative way while the Virgo Venus person might throw out some criticisms.

Another way Venus can be temporarily accentuated in our awareness is when our natal Venus is strongly aspected by a slow-moving transiting planet like Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune or Pluto or the centaur Chiron. A conjunction, trine or sextile from any of these activators can serve to put us ‘in the zone’ wherein we feel more connected emotionally to what is present around us. Even Saturn can be productive here as it enables ‘endurance creativity’ and pressure often produces more. Saturn is also the very definition of keeping it real, and so can greatly assist in being objective. Progressions from the slow moving planets can also have a similar effect on natal Venus or progressed Venus as well as occasionally adding more Water to our dynamic. As normal it is the faster moving planets that have the greater effect by progression and in this the Sun, Moon, Mercury and Mars as well as the progressed ascendant making an aspect to Venus can bring us into greater contact with our own emotional body and so also that of those around us.

A strong Venus, however, will only get you so far – it will be able to feel what is present and to resonate with it, but it lacks the ability to figure it out or to recognise its truth or lack of it. Astral conflation can occur wherein what you resonate with becomes difficult to discern properly because it is tangled up in your own stuff, clouded by your own subjective feelings which are often being played upon by the environment without your cognition. It becomes difficult to separate who you are from what you are feeling or experiencing. This is where the Water signs and other astrological factors can help, like a strong Mercury (which enables our comprehension of astral forms and promotes an ability to detach from the emotions) or Air signs (which add greater detail and detachment to our perception of things). A strong development of these factors of astrology is part of what helps to clarify the Water region of the mental body. The astral body is woven from our mental bodies perception of and interaction with astral substance, from its repulsion and attraction to astral qualities and by how it reacts to various kinds of emotional significance. The Water signs expressed through our mental body are the major parts of our being that make sense out of these astral sensations, while Venus is that part which directly encounters them via the emotional body. This means that by bringing out the purest and greatest expression of the Water signs and by developing your connection with Venus you will be pouring energy into the process by which our unnamed phenomena occurs.


Of course this is a great simplification and all of our astrology plays a role in all of our experience, and there are various factors which greatly complicate this matter, but it is still helpful to understand the core mechanics in astrological terms. You can use conduction to explore all of this when your Venus key is activated or when your Water signs are being emphasised, but you can also explore it under other activations of other keys. Jupiter activation is particularly helpful, and Neptune activation is also very helpful in this respect though it comes with a great risk of the astral conflation described earlier. Understanding the sign qualities of your Venus provides you with signposts pointing to how you can more safely and easily develop your awareness of emotions, while the sign position of Mercury does the same for your ability to accurately observe and figure out astral circumstances. The Sun sign is overall an indicator of the mental body and the mental matrix, the connecting cord between the mental and astral bodies, while the Moon sign is an overall indicator of the astral body and the astral matrix, the connecting cord between the astral and physical. Both of these cords also have powerful roles in the communication of our resonance with truth between the astral and the mental body.

A brief note here about the use of substances like Ayahuasca, LSD, mushrooms, alcohol, etc. – these mind altering substances can temporarily loosen the hold we have over our consciousness (often at a heavy price) so that it is more receptive to being ‘in the flow’ (just think of any time when you were dancing while heavily drunk), but they take away our control over the experience by overwhelming our awareness and with repeated use the addictive behaviour erodes the ability to be creative at all, therefore they are ultimately damaging to the artistic process and our ability to feel things. They need to be treated with the greatest of respect and never be mistaken as the source of the inspiration they initially facilitate – that source is within us. Creative and artistic inspiration does not come from the lines of cocaine or the cans of beer or bottles of vodka, and thinking that way is a fast track to burnout of all your creative fuses.

A far better way to train your capacity to perceive astral force and to learn how to control it is to adapt some of the mental and astral exercises from IIH by giving them a focus on emotional development. Bardon did not provide specific instructions on emotional development in his book, probably because a) he did not feel the need to write this way for an audience of readers living in the 1950s where the concept of personal feelings held far more emphasis on the ‘personal’ – especially in eastern Europe rather than the US, and b) the exercises of the first book gradually mature the emotional awareness of the magician anyway by exposing it to spiritual realities. For example the process of learning how to transfer yourself mentally into other living beings greatly increases your empathy, and when you learn to sit in one position ignoring any sense of discomfort you are gaining mastery over the emotional state of being comfortable. Additionally the mental chatter we have to deal with in the early mental steps arises from the reactions we have to what we feel about things that are happening, so by attaining discipline over the chatter we are automatically also increasing our emotional discipline. These are all indirect ways the course develops the magician emotionally. However as mentioned above he does specifically instruct the magician to make their spirit more emotional during step 7, he just doesn’t provide any explicit ways to do that because he rightly assumes that anyone actually practicing at this step will be brimming with ideas about how to do it. However even students practicing at step 1 can adapt their practice to include a more specific degree of emotional development and in the modern age I feel that this is actually appropriate to do. The structure of human awareness has greatly changed in the last 70 years with the introduction of electronic technologies and the opening up of psychology and the expression of feelings has created a world in which more explicit guidance might be necessary for some people.

Fortunately this is an easy matter to do. The first exercises of the mental steps of step 1, often labeled as “thought observation” or “thought control”, can easily be adapted towards development of the emotional body simply by giving them an emotional focus. Learn to spend as long as you can simply observing what you are feeling, starting with the goal of 10 minutes and continuing to practice until you can observe it for as long as you wish. Once you can focus your attention on your emotional body for about 10 minutes, begin to learn how to detach yourself and reattach yourself to what you’re feeling. This is a matter of developing a certain ‘muscle’ in your astral body that is able to detach from what you are feeling and simply observe it without being drawn into it and immersed by it. With practice you will discover how to move in and out of your emotional experience at will. It is simply a matter of feeling what you feel, and then stepping back from engaging in it so that you can watch it happening without being swept along. You dance with it, then you stop and rest in the void, listening, then you rejoin it, all under your own control. Outside of meditation you can use music, which has a very direct impact on the astral body, to perform a similar exercise wherein you first learn to focus intently on the way the music is affecting you emotionally and just let it happen, and then develop the ability to detach from that manipulation so that you can observe why and how it affects you. Go to the theatre or a live concert, leave your phone at home, and do the same during the live performance. Live performance is much more vivid and, well, alive than recorded events, and this is important when it comes to the astral force which they communicate.

However the nature of the astral means that recorded events still carry an echo or resonance of the original event which they recorded, a kind of shadow soul which can be accessed and felt again many years after it transpired. It loses much of its power from being recorded but it is still a fragment which if nurtured can be kindled and give off more of the original light it contained. During a genuinely live event where millions of people are witnessing the same thing on screens while some are actually physically present, the laws of space are almost completely breached and all participants share in a singular astral experience, although each will resonate with it differently and so have a different personal reaction or response which makes the experience uniquely theirs. Even more importantly, the fact that the laws of space do not confine the astral as firmly as they do our physical universe means that astral magic can pretty much ignore the whole concept of space when it comes to being able to affect things from a distance, although it will still be bound by the rule of time.

Think about this next time you’re watching the news. Next time you see something awful happening in our world to someone somewhere else or to some other place, take time to be grateful that you can see the faces of the victims, the devastation to the environment. Be grateful too when you are shown the faces of those accused of such things, rightly or wrongly. Your ability to witness all these dreadful things pretty much as they are happening is also your ability to comfort those who need to be comforted and to provide guidance to the misguided and cruel. The power of your feelings is directly proportional to your ability to actually impact their astral experience, although you may never become aware of it. Learn to empathise with every crying face, with every travesty being visited upon your family. Yes, there are many, but do not let yourself fall into despair, let this instead be the spark that makes your compassion burn brighter. Do not be disheartened by the dark storms and catastrophes that suggest that the human race is beyond redemption and everything is already doomed – it is only that way for people who have seen too much and lost touch with their faith in humanity. There is every reason to scold ourselves for what we do to one another and our world, but never any reason to give up on hope, love and redemption. Indeed, we have far more power than we have ever given ourselves credit for, for it is within us to fill the local astral realm with light and, chaotic though it may be now, bring meaning to it all.

The Keeper of the Waters: II

Greetings and welcome back to Journeys! This month I bring you the conclusion of my long message about the planet Neptune. We will discuss the astrological history of the new planet, the chart for its discovery and its significance for individuals and the world.


“Every living being is an engine geared to the wheelwork of the universe. Though seemingly affected only by its immediate surrounding, the sphere of external influence extends to infinite distance.”
                              ― Nikola Tesla

In my previous article in this series I discussed the significance and role of the new planet Uranus. One of the things I pointed out about that planet was that it was very far out in terms of its orbit, being twice the distance from the Sun as Saturn is (18-20 AU instead of 9-10 AU, where 1 AU is the distance between Earth and the Sun). I made the point that astrologically this vast distance resulted in a near invisibility and a scale of activity far beyond the limits represented by Saturn for so many centuries. I argued that the discovery of this new planet represented a paradigm shift in human development, a breakthrough into a new paradigm, one that was specifically initiated by technological breakthroughs. I don’t think anyone would argue that this has not already occurred and is underway.

With Neptune the distances are even more vast, being 29 to 30 AU. If we had to stretch our minds beyond their limits in order to grasp the astrological meaning of the planet Uranus, then we have to leave them behind entirely in order to grasp the meaning of Neptune. “Leave your world behind” is the mindset here. If, as I have argued, hieroglyphic communication was a better way than alphabetic communication for us to perceive the realities of the planet Uranus then it is an absolutely essential one when talking about Neptune. Symbolic language – the language of astral form – is the only way we can communicate the principle of this planet to one another, because it’s how it speaks to us, and so this communication in alphabetic writing is starting out with a giant handicap before it begins. To an extent I will need to speak in metaphors and symbols in order to communicate the essential meaning, and you will have to decrypt that for yourselves. In short, follow the links and read between the lines.

So we must abandon our attachment to reality as we know it. However, and this turns out to be important, it is only our current Earthly way of looking at the universe and reality that we must leave behind, which means that fundamentally it is our mundane, conventional and materialistic mindset that we must abandon in order to comprehend what Neptune brings. We do not stop there either – we have to shed all our ego identification, our attachment to the identity we have constructed, our notion of being a seperate individual. For this is not a planet concerned very much with mundane matters at all, except as a transcendent principle which underlies all of them and from which they all emerge and return in an endless cycle of infinite possibilities manifesting in infinite ways across the vast timeless ocean of existence.

So, let’s dive in.


In modern western astrology Neptune is now a very richly explored influence and few astrologers disagree over it significations. Open up any textbook or web page covering the topic and you will see a very broad agreement on its principles. Primarily these include psychic, mystical, spiritual and occult experiences, imagination, dreams and visions, compassion, unconditional love, transcendence, redemption, subtlety and tranquility on the positive side and illusion, delusion, deception, lies, fraud, escapism, cults, madness, paranoia, instability, disintegration, confusion, ambush, conflation, secret societies and conspiracy on the negative side. Neptune is also commonly associated with Pisces, photography, film, VR and all of the visual arts as well as with drugs of all kinds, gas, the unconscious, chemistry, viruses and bacteria, nausea, unsolved mysteries, absence of boundaries, invisible things (like frequencies or radiation), ocean life, contamination, flooding, oil, fluids in general (especially if leaking or spewing), meditation, music and fashion. In my personal experience I have found that table top role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons are also a thing of Neptune  because they loosen the hold of the awareness over its identity, sense of reality and its boundaries and invite it to see an Other world through the eyes of an Other. Connecting themes in all of these significations are invisibility, intangibility, imaginative vision and concealment.

So we have come to an agreement on something we knew nothing about, but where do we get these ideas from? From what context were they conjured?


It is now 173 years since Neptune was discovered. When it was discovered astrologers obviously knew nothing about its influence. Today however there are many books, writings, videos, lectures and workshops on the topic, almost all of which are in agreement on the above key principles. The first thing for us to sort out then is how astrologers have come to assign the significations they have assigned. It’s important because we need to leave behind a record for future astrologers, something we don’t have regarding the ancient traditional planets, and it’s important because we need to understand the sources from which we have gained these insights or made these assumptions, depending upon your point of view.

This is actually quite difficult to do. The problem is that the emergence of ideas and notions often takes place outside of print (and almost always takes place in the mind and in conversations first) and even when it does eventually make it into print you have to dig into archives and research to find it, many of which are inaccessible, lost, or hard to find. Trying to do this before the internet would have been a thousand times more challenging, but it still requires some digging. All of this is true for both Uranus and Pluto as well, and is rapidly proving true for Chiron and the asteroids, etc. I lament this, it feels like we’re missing a golden opportunity to create a historical record of something profoundly important for future astrologers. They may just be left with the meanings we hand down to them without understanding who, when or where we got them from. So, building on the work of others (see my sources at the end of this message) and re-presenting it, here is my humble offering on the timeline for astrological Neptune.

There are some key questions we need to answer in this research. One is when and how did Neptune become associated with Pisces? Another question is when it became associated with dreams. A third and perhaps separate one is when it became associated with spiritual and psychic matters. We must also answer the question of when it became associated with drugs and pharmaceuticals, as well as why. Since many of the qualities we attributed Neptune overlap with the qualities we attribute to Pisces it seems likely that many of the qualities of Neptune emerged once a connection with Pisces was established and were simply borrowed from the sign. Even if this is not the case it is still likely that some of these if not all of these key principles emerged together, and settled in gradually, but I think that at this time we can point to key periods in history which hold potential answers to all of these questions. However looking back into the astrological history of Neptune can help us in other ways – it can help us to see which of the early assumptions were discarded, and raise new questions for us about why they were forgotten. Additionally, it may show us which of the earlier astrologers had insights which match hours.

There are earlier publications on Neptune from the mundane astrologers than the natal astrologers, with the first being by R.H. Penny in an 1880 issue of ‘Urania’. Penny turns up again 11 years later talking about Neptune in a natal context in the August 1891 issue of ‘The Astrologer’, in which he defends his character from a perceived slur from another astrologer who had taken a dim view of Neptune opposite Mercury. The first lengthy written discussion of Neptune as a natal influence in an astrological context that I have been able to find was committed to print 44 years after its discovery, in 1890, in John Story’s edition of “W. J. Simmonite’s Complete Arcana of Astral Philosophy”. This was a reprint of an earlier work which had been updated to include a letter on the subject of Neptune by John Ackroyd, a respected astrologer of the time, as well as some notes on Neptune by the editor and publisher, John Story.

The late 1880s and early 1890s seem to be the critical point at which historical records on astrological Neptune begin to emerge, as this is also when the first associations with Pisces seem to appear in print (see below). However it is very likely that ideas and notions about Neptune began to emerge almost immediately upon its discovery. The reason why I say this is that the astrological environment in which Neptune was discovered was very different to the one in which Uranus was discovered. When Uranus was discovered astrology was almost stamped out, characterised as the work of charlatans, but by the time Neptune arrived a revival of astrology led by Raphael (a pseudonym for Robert Cross Smith) had already occurred. His ephemeris, which continued after his death in 1832, standardized the use of the Placidus house system in western astrology and is still in print today. So it is likely that there were active astrologers at the time Neptune was discovered who immediately set about wondering what it meant, especially since they had already had to deal with the new arrival of Uranus.

We get some interesting insights from both the letter and the notes presented in this book. From the notes by Story we are told that astrologers are still struggling to identify what the new planet means, and that they want to keep watching it and comparing notes for some time to come. They are more sure of the implications of Herschel’s planet, but have some disagreement on that too. Story is impatient with this attitude and bravely ventures out to put his neck on the chopping block of printed speculation, and boy does he go there:

“It has just left the sign Taurus, ruling Ireland, and such history has been made for that country that future generations will read with amazement and awe. Remember Dublin, May 6th, 1882. At the present time the Neptune planet is slowly wending its way through Gemini, the ruling sign of our capital city London, and it has already begun to show its disposition. It has just been passing over the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant of our Sovereign Lady, Queen Victoria, and the result is shown in the discontent and trouble in the army, police, postal service, etc., and when it reaches the ruling degree of the city it will, according to the aspects thrown to it, cause such events as will long be remembered. It will put to nought the wisdom of our legislators, and show, ”’tis not in mortals to command success.”

At the same time I do not wish you to understand by this that his influence will be, and produce, all evil. His positions at birth, his aspects, transits over him, and he over others, will show the thoughtful student his power and influence, and I expect he will produce some very novel and striking features in the near future. Most of the readers of this work began their lives in the most important, intellectual, and progressive period of human history; the period of such marvels as the telegraph, telephone, phonograph, electric lighting, anaesthetics, new and powerful explosives, the spectroscope, etc., but I look for greater wonders to be unfolded during the next decade. The preacher, the lawyer, and the medical man, will have to take long strides to keep pace with the times; and who shall say that the undying vigil of the astronomer shall not be rewarded by discovering other intelligent dwellers in other planets, and even discover means of intercourse with them”.

He means talking to aliens, not sexual intercourse with them, by the way. Here we see the Victorian mindset applying itself to the problem of a new planet, impressed with human progress and picturing wondrous new things in the future. Before we laugh at his suggestion about meeting ET we should perhaps ask ourselves if the people of tomorrow will laugh at us for thinking that we are alone. Story is feeling the call of his imagination, and I think that is interesting too, as well as his off the cuff comment about the pace of progress for religions, laws and medicine. He also identifies the chaotic, destabilising and confusing effect that Neptune can have in mundane politics and upon society in general, without yet making the connection to the individual or personal experience. However his overall impression of a planet that reminds mortals of their own insignificance and ignorance in the grand scheme of things feels not too far off the mark. Astrologers are getting that the two new planets create big, important happenings.

He does even better when he adds a later note:

“This planet has only been known for a comparatively short time. From my own radix I have found it to be very much after the nature of the planet Herschel, and to have a controlling influence over the minds of those who have to do much with persons who believe in the Art and Science of Astrology, dreams, inspirations, etc. Students will have a very good opportunity to watch the influence of Neptune during its progress through Gemini, the house of Mercury, which rules London and a great part of the United States as well as other places … Taurus rules Ireland, and Dublin particularly. It is well known to the world what happened on May 6th, 1882, in Dublin, and the state of confusion that has reigned in Ireland generally since that time (see Raphael’s Ephemeris for that date). Students, let your own study and observation be your guide with regard to the planet Neptune. I look forward to some notable inventions in arts and science being brought to light during the progress of Neptune through Gemini.”

Here we can see the association with dreams and inspirations, as well as with the spiritual arts like astrology. Yet these early notes also show a picture of Neptune as a troublemaker or instigator of chaos and mayhem in society. The events in Dublin being referred to are the Phoenix Park murders when two senior civil servants were ambushed and stabbed to death by Fenian assassins. This led to a decades long delay of home rule in Ireland amidst chaotic and violent political consequences.

The letter from John Ackroyd at the end of the book goes into far more detail on the new planet. Because it is such an interesting historical document for us I will present it in full here:

Dear Sir,-

From the short time that has elapsed since this planet was discovered not much is yet known about its influence, either in natal or any other branch of astrology, but according to the rules of Ptolemy for judging of new phenomena, and from personal observation, its influence is evil and disappointing to persons born when it is in evil aspect to the Sun, Moon or Mercury. Its effects are something like the combined influences of Saturn or Uranus, obscure, strange, and eventful, so that wherever a nativity is of a discordant nature, that is, the Sun, Moon or Mercury, the ascendant or its ruler, are afflicted by evil aspects of the other planets, Neptune, joining in with the discordant elements, its influence will intensify the evil effects and make the work more disastrous.

When this planet is well located and in good aspect to the Sun, Moon or Mercury, the ascendant or its ruler, so as to have a controlling influence over the mind, it will constitute a character close, reserved, careful, crafty, ingenious and inventive, studious and clever in mechanical arts, chemistry, etc., a person silent, not of many words, greedy after money and property, selfish and indifferent towards others, of a gloomy, lowering aspect, private and anti-social, careless about dress, personal appearance, forms and fashions, curious, odd and retiring in manners, therefore not much adapted for social life and company. This planet appears to have a continuous influence over the minds of spiritualists, mediums, prophets, seers, magicians, clairvoyants, enthusiasts, and persons who believe in inspiration, oracles, and futurity. In certain classes it induces to a faith in dreams, spirits and ghosts, tales of wonder and enchantment, witching, charming, necromancy, and fortune-telling in various ways, as card shuffling, palmistry, geomancy, moles, and other kinds of superstitious craft and artful practices too numerous to name.

When this planet is badly located at birth, that is in evil aspect to the Sun, Moon or Mercury, especially when the nativity is otherwise discordant, it will tend to give or predispose to a morbid condition of the mind, latent wickedness, and a want of moral sentiment. Such persons in the lower ranks of life will be likely to drift into low, immoral habits and practices of various kinds which will cause a loss of reputation, deprive the native of his liberty, or run him into prison and exile, as the mind will naturally be very secretive, daring, and resolute when fully engaged in any enterprise. Although rather procrastinating, cautious, and timid at times, he will have good courage and be a little reckless when prompted and pressed by circumstances, therefore liable to get on the wrong line of pursuit.

Diseases indicated by Neptune are bowel, liver, and spleen diseases, as also bilious and gastric complaints, and affections to the bladder and urinal organs, as gravel, stone, colic, inflammation and obstruction in the bowels and bladder, hypochondria, etc. To females it denotes barrenness, cancers in the womb, hysterical complaints, abortion, difficult confinements, and other diseases common to such organised parts of the body in both sexes. In bad cases sudden and violent death by fire, fire-arms, explosives, machinery, assassination and murder, accidents in games and sports, etc , etc.

The influence of this planet, like Herschel, is evil and unfortunate. Some idea may be formed of its effects by the condition of Ireland for the last fourteen years. Neptune entered the ruling sign of Ireland in 1875 and ever since the Irish people, or a great portion thereof, have been in a state of turmoil and revolution. At the time of the Phoenix Park murders, this planet was exactly in conjunction with the Sun, Saturn and Mercury, in the sign Taurus, all four planets setting at Dublin, May 6th, 1882, at 7-17 p.m., the exact time of the murder, which was a remarkable confirmation of planetary influences. Neptune was discovered on September 23rd, 1846, at which time it was located in 25 degrees of Aquarius, exactly in conjunction with the planet Saturn, which prenoted the Crimean War in 1854.

Past events since 1846 clearly appear to demonstrate the nature of the said planet, viz.,-Home Rule bubble, the discovery and development of new chemical elements of destruction, infernal machines, dynamite, new preparation of chemical poisons, medicines, etc.; also the great changes in the habits and manners of the people. Then, again, Neptune left the ruling sign of Ireland in March, 1889, and entered into the ruling sign of London. Indicating those dreadful murders and mutilation of the victims ‘of the undiscovered” Jack the Ripper.” This is another confirmation of my judgment on the nature of this celestial messenger. What other events will follow during its transit through London ascendant, the Wheel of Time can only unfold. The last time it went through Gemini it denoted the South Sea Bubble.

The houses of the planets were originally formulated by the Chaldeans, Babylonians, or Egyptians, hut on what principles they were deduced is a mystery to the present generation; nevertheless there appears to be some truth in the allotment of planetary houses. According to Ptolemy’s theory Aquarius should be Neptune’s house, but Scorpio or Taurus might answer well, as they are both of an obscure and mystical nature, but it will require more experience, observation, and practice to settle the matter.

Yours truly,


So we can see that this initial account gives an impression of violence and mayhem similar to the astrology we now assign more readily to Uranus and Pluto. The mention of Jack the Ripper is interesting given that Neptune is associated with mental disturbances and psychoses where the mind has breaks from reality. We also see a clear identification with spiritual, mystical and occult phenomena, as well as with dreams – he agrees with Story. Historical context offers us an explanation for this early insight into Neptune’s principle – its discovery was synchronous with the emergence of spiritualism (the Fox sisters story begins as Neptune is discovered, and even when one of the sisters guiltily admits to fraud decades later the tale remains fundamentally Neptunian) and so by the time Ackroyd is writing these words spiritualism is turning into a religion, London is home to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and books on Theosophy are selling like hot cakes. Astrologers were making the connection between the arrival of the new planet and the emergence of occult philosophy. Ackroyd’s letter also reveals that astrological thinking was at least beginning to identify Neptune with drugs and pharmaceuticals since it gives mention to medicines and chemical poisons.

Yet this letter makes no mention of the sign Pisces in connection with Neptune. Instead he makes a suggestion that it might be Aquarius, Scorpio or Taurus that the new planet belongs with. However his reasoning is vague since it’s unclear what he means when he describes Taurus as ‘obscure and mystical’ in nature. Obscure and mystical are, however good keywords for describing Neptune.

The first written records connecting Neptune with Pisces do, however, come from the same era. Thanks to the work of astrological historian and archivist Philip Graves we have an earliest known mention of the connection which traces back to the November 1888 issue of the journal ‘The Astrologer’. In this issue a person by the name of J.T. Campbell writes to the editor about an anonymous friend who mentioned that Neptune was the ruler of Pisces and had its detriment and fall in Scorpio. Although this is a question and not a statement or an assertion (except by the unknown friend) it shows us that by at least that time the idea was already under consideration. Six years later in an 1894 issue of the same magazine a serialized publication by someone equally anonymous going by the name ‘Sagittarius’ gave a more reasoned and committed argument for assigning Neptune to Pisces:

“The Sun fountain of light and life to our system rules in Leo as his own house; the first planet revolving round him (rejecting the inter-mercurial planet Vulcan of R. A. Proctor) is Mercury who consequently gets Virgo the next sign to Leo, as Mercury’s sphere is next to the Sun; then comes Venus next in order, who, of course, gets Libra for her house; passing the Earth, the next in order is Mars who gets Scorpio; the next sign in rotation then, omitting the asteroids (Ceres, Vesta, etc.) in toto, Jupiter gets Sagittarius the next in order; then comes Saturn who follows on with Capricornus the next sign. Here Ptolemy turns around and goes backward Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, etc., from the circumference to the centre, but we moderns who have Uranus and Neptune to complete our system and deal with, must advance and not recede as Ptolemy did for he knew nothing of these two planets Uranus and Neptune; therefore the next planet in the order of nature to Saturn who has Capricorn only is Uranus, who must of necessity have Aquarius; the next sign, and the last of the spheres is Neptune, so he for the same reason must have the last sign (Pisces) for his “domal” dignity. Aries, the vernal equinox and the first sign of the circle, is given to Mars who is akin to the earth in nature, the principle of wrath and selfishness predominating over the principle of love, hence Mars gets Aries next to Pisces in the zodiac. Returning to the Sun Leo the sphere of Venus comes next, so she gets Taurus the next sign for her other house, then below Venus is Mercury, so consequently he gets Gemini for the same reason. Then comes the Moon, swiftest of all the heavenly wanderers, so the fair Luna gets the next sign Cancer for her house, then the Moon joins the Sun Leo, and from the conjoint principles of heat and moisture in union another gestation commences and so on ad-infinitum.

” “Steady, my friend,” says an objector, “why should the inferior planets Mercury and Venus and the small planet Mars (with his two recently discovered moons) have two houses allotted to each of them?” Why, my friend? because they move so swiftly. Mercury is only about a fortnight in a sign when not stationary in it, and for this reason has two signs for houses, and Venus likewise, and Mars, although really a superior, as he moves beyond the earth’s orbit, must, as far as his swift motion and small magnitude is concerned, be considered an inferior, unless he be stationary, being only about six weeks in a sign, hence Mercury, Venus, and Mars being swiftly moving planets, compared to Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, have for the aforesaid reason two houses each allotted to them, but the giant planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, on account of their slow and ponderous motion, have only one house each. The Sun and Moon being passive planets, and, according to Ptolemy, the most essential significators translating the influences of all the planets to our earth, have for this reason one house each only, even though the lesser luminary is the swiftest in motion of any of them.”

So we can say that by at least the late 1880s to 1890 astrologers had started connected Neptune with Pisces, dreams, psychic and occult phenomena, drugs, psychoses and many of the core concepts that we now associate with it, but that there was a lot of fuzz around the edges that has been trimmed away. Where, for example, did they get the idea that Neptune signified machinery, death by fire, bravery (perhaps from idealism?), or bowel, liver, and spleen diseases, and when were these ideas taken out of consideration? It’s also clear that there were doubts about the core principles but it’s very difficult to pinpoint when and why those doubts faded away and our vision of Neptune crystallized into its current form. I imagine this took about a further 20 years to take place, but there were key contributions toward our understanding of Neptune by astrologers throughout the 20th century, especially following the growth of psychotherapy (Jung makes a huge contribution with his notion of archetypes) and after the 1960s when the popularity of modern astrology started to rise. Like so much of what happens with Neptune, it slowly crept up on us like a bank of fog until it was all we could see. However it seems that the core notions were in place by the late Victorian era. We can see that the essence of our understanding is there. The evocation of modern Neptune is a Victorian artifact. In fact the whole emergence of Neptune is a Victorian phenomenon, since it was discovered 9 years after her coronation in 1837 and she played a huge role in popularizing spiritualism after the death of her husband whome she longed to be with again. She was born with Neptune in conjunction with Uranus in Sagittarius (the multi-national Empire), and a Jupiter in Aquarius that is near the position of Neptune in the chart for its discovery. She was born, in an astrological sense, to be a transmission device for a planet that had yet to be discovered. The discovery chart itself also shows the imprint of the Victorian era in which it takes place.


Awareness of Neptune

What this chart shows is an image of our relationship to the new planet rather than what the new planet actually signifies and means. It is effectively a blueprint for how we can develop that relationship as well as a picture of the problems that arise through it.

The discovery chart is a nocturnal chart (it’s very hard to discover anything up there during daylight hours!) that has Gemini rising with Jupiter ascending, the Sun at the equinox point in the beginning of Libra and the Moon in Scorpio. Mercury, the chart ruler, is very strongly placed in Virgo. Neptune is in an exact conjunction with a super strong Saturn in Aquarius, the pair of which are in an Air Element grand trine with the Dragons Head and the ascendant and also a sextile with Pluto in Aries, which thereby becomes the apex of a grand kite pattern (a grand trine where at least one side of the trine is bisected by a sextile to both ends). A second grand kite pattern is formed from another Air Element grand trine involving Jupiter, Chiron and the midheaven with Uranus in Aries at the apex. The nocturnal planets – Moon, Venus and Mars – have stronger positions by sect, with Mars and especially Mercury also having strong dignity. Saturn is extremely high in dignity but on the cold and brittle side. The primary tension in the chart comes from squares between the Gemini objects and the Virgo objects as well as oppositions between Chiron and Uranus and Pluto and the Dragons Head/Moon. A subtler problem comes from the strong tendency to over-think things.

Here are Saturn and Neptune as they would have been seen in the sky at the time:

Discovery of Neptune (stars)

Here we can see them in the constellation Aquarius, near the left hip of the Water Bearer. Above and to the right is the Eagle and Altair. Below them lies the star Fomalhaut while above them lies the constellation of Equuleus, the First Horse, the foal of the larger nearby Pegasus, and Delphinus, the Dolphin. Neptune is in paran relationship with the star Castor (in Gemini), signifying “a wave of spiritual or metaphysical thinking” and with Zuben Elgenubi (in Libra) signifying “people in awe or wonder of events”, according to the observations of Bernadette Brady. Note that the mythological story about Poseidon being the creator of horses and the father of Pegasus as well as his connection to dolphins (his sacred animal) is embedded in the sky around Neptune. Note also that in the natal chart the birth of Poseidon as a son of Cronus is also represented by Neptune’s conjunction with Saturn in its diurnal sign, and his sibling relationship with Zeus and Hades is shown by the trine and sextile to a dominant Jupiter rising in Gemini and Pluto in Aries on the 12th respectively (and a 12th that is huge in Placidus houses). The 5th temple is also heavily pregnant – Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars and Chiron all situate there – reminding us of the prolific siring that the god performs. The squares to Jupiter in Gemini only act to exaggerate and greatly multiply this feature, as well as indicating force and controversy. Our myths are part of the relationships we form with the planets, and so they are represented in the discovery chart.

What immediately leaps out to me about this chart is the conjunction of the new planet with Saturn in Aquarius, because it is such an apt symbol for how the planet was discovered through years of hard work in mathematical equations and abstract calculation. The strong presence of Air with Gemini rising and Jupiter in Gemini ascending also points to a mind journey or vision quest. It is also an extremely apt conjunction for the Victorian era itself, a time of great scientific discovery and futurism and Utopian visions of the future amidst some extreme social conditions like poverty and air pollution. In the late 1840s anesthesia, airships, and the gas mask appear and the first trans-Atlantic cable is laid, opening the way to the modern communications age. It’s also worth pointing out that at this time in history not only was the Victorian era beginning but the Communist manifesto was being published by Marx, Communism being strongly associated with the sign Aquarius. This conjunction alone points to massive reforms in society and in human understanding of the universe, to things of science fiction becoming science fact.

Readers may remember that in the last issue of this journal I mentioned that when the race to discover Neptune through mathematics began Neptune was in conjunction with Uranus. It seems the actual discovery required the reality manifesting power of a super strong Saturn to finally accomplish, while the influence of Uranus awakened us to the existence of the invisible. This is an important clue about our relationship to Neptune – we awaken to the reality of the new planet through the planet Uranus but in order to truly connect with and manifest it we need a strong relationship with Saturn.

Note that Uranus in Aries becomes the apex for the kite pattern involving the Saturn/Neptune conjunction. This aspect pattern – Jupiter, Saturn/Neptune, and Chiron in trine with one another with Uranus opposite Chiron bisecting the triangle that is formed – is probably the most significant pattern in the chart. Its a clear sign that in terms of Neptune much depends on how we handle the nearly global aspect. It is also pointing at Aries and Libra as keys signs in that process. Think about it and you will realise how interesting that is, and why it makes so much sense.

The relatively tensionless dual kite aspect patterns in the Neptune chart (both Air with a Fire cap) contrast strongly with the dynamic and explosive patterns present in the Uranus chart. This is a much softer, sneakier and subtler chart overall. The potential for great change is definitely there, especially in our understanding of science, but it will be a long, gradual and experimental journey, not one that is populated by jarring, sudden or explosive events or breakthroughs. With the advantage of hindsight what this chart is suggestive of is the gradual exploration of the invisible world of frequencies and of bacterial, chemical, atomic, subatomic, quantum and sub- quantum reality, a steady advance of science from the physical into the metaphysical. The first electric telegraph, the first computer program, the airship, the refinement of kerosene as a liquid fuel and the daguerreotype (early photograph) emerged just as we discovered Neptune, again reminding us of the Saturn/Neptune in Aquarius conjunction as the foundations of the modern age were being laid. Today our modern experiments in search of a “God particle” – the Higgs boson, confirmed to exist in 2012 when Neptune had just returned to its discovery position – continue to resonate with this discovery chart. We seem to be getting very close to cracking the inter-dimensional barrier and understanding how to manipulate gravity and the speed of light. The technology for warp drive is already worked out, we are only lacking a sufficient power source to try it out. That power source is the ‘Zero Point’ energy Tesla was playing with and we will eventually learn how to harness it. In fact it is likely that we have already done so in some Special Access Program that you and I are not meant to know about yet. Neptune is always incredibly secretive, deceptive and veiled. That Moon in Scorpio is a cherry on this cake, suggesting that there are deep secrets in the soul and the world that will be revealed when the time is right. The presence of this Moon in the 6th is a sign that these things will seep into and ultimately saturate our daily lives. In fact the Moon in Scorpio is the main thread connecting the discovery of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

The fact that the foundations of the modern communications age emerged almost immediately following the discovery of Neptune is significant because it is resonant with the exact conjunction of Neptune with Saturn in Aquarius. This clues us into the fact that these discovery charts are responsive to transits. As major transits occur to the discovery chart our relationship to Neptune is transformed or advanced, most often through our own technological achievements. The most significant of these transits I have found in this chart are caused by conjunctions of transiting Neptune itself. For example I have already mentioned inventions which form the foundation of the modern communications age at the time Neptune was discovered. A little later when Neptune was conjunct this discovery charts Uranus in Aries in the late 1860s, the Bahai faith, the basis for genetics, dynamite, the Periodic table, the first transatlantic telegraph cable and the era of Victorian fashions arrive. We discover that light is a form of electromagnetic radiation as the inhuman slave trade brings African music to America, planting the seeds of 20th century blues and jazz music. Shortly after that in the early 1870s as Neptune is transiting the discovery charts Pluto in Aries, heat death or thermodynamic entropy is being defined, the telephone is arriving, the first radiometer, the first electrical generator, America’s Reconstruction and photoconductivity are in the news. In 1895 when Neptune has moved to the position of the discovery charts Jupiter in Gemini, Lumiere brothers release a film leading to the birth of movies. Later in 1932 colour and sound in film arrive when Neptune is conjunct the discovery chart’s Venus. The first satellite, Sputnik I, the first hydrogen bomb tests, the double helix of DNA, the peace symbol, the first video game, the first photos of the dark side of the Moon and the first silicon chip circuit arrive in the late 1950s when Neptune is conjunct the discovery chart’s Moon in Scorpio. When Neptune is conjunct the Aquarius midheaven in 2004 there is a major resurgence of 3-D film and when Neptune returned to Saturn and its discovery position the first quantum machines and AR and VR technologies started to break through into the mainstream. The next stop for us on this trail is Neptune conjunct Uranus in Aries again. The discovery chart is a dynamic mechanism like a clock that advances and deepens our relationship to what Neptune represents, frequently through science or tech, and this is maybe because of that discovery position in Aquarius; although the principle holds true for the other discovery charts as well. .


Within an individual chart Neptune has a multidimensional manifestation in every sense of the phrase.

Neptune in the signs has a collective influence because it takes about 14 years for Neptune to go through a single sign and therefore this is something that you will share with millions of people born around the same time as you. It is part of what is featured in your generation. I wrote a lot about this in previous posts and there are individual posts available for Neptune in Libra and Neptune in Sagittarius which I will refer you, with more to come. My introductory post on collective astrology contains information about how Neptune in a sign manifests itself through our sleeping dreams. I also recommend looking at my article on Astrology, Form and Awareness which has much to do with understanding Neptune. 

Neptune in the temples or houses personalises the influence of Neptune in your life and can be considered more significant for individual interpretation. Here is a clear sign for us as to where we will encounter the significations of Neptune in our lives and what activities we need to immerse ourselves in deeply if we go looking for it. I have written two posts about the meanings of the 12 temples and refer you to those here.

Aspects involving Neptune straddle the line between collective and individual/personal depending upon whether they are with fast or slow moving planets. Slow moving planets (from Jupiter outward) have increasingly collective influences as the aspects they form hang around for far longer periods of time and so apply similarly to the signs, while fast moving planets (including the Lights) are far more individual and personal and apply like the temples. Therefore you should pay more attention to the temple position of Neptune as well as aspects to the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars as well as the ascendant and midheaven when you’re giving an interpretation to someone. You should never ignore the sign or the aspects to Jupiter, Saturn, Chiron, Uranus or Pluto but you should consider these as being part of a collective influence affecting many people. Where these collective influences connect with faster moving planets by aspect shows how the personal awareness connects with the collective it belongs to, and the same is also shown by which temples the slow moving planets are in. For example Uranus in conjunction with Neptune in Capricorn is a collective influence but its placement in the temples will act to personalise it, and additionally if you are born with the Sun or the Moon in a conjunction with Uranus and Neptune in Capricorn then you will act to transmit it through your Sun or Moon. The same will be true of your Mars if your Mars is in a square to Uranus/Neptune from Aries, but in this case you will probably be aggressively kicking against something in your generation, something likely connected to its visions or trends (both of which are themes of collective Neptune), maybe its political ideology because of the Capricorn influence.

Wherever Neptune is in your chart, whether that is sign or temple, you will find much greater difficulty in setting your boundaries, idealism, greater confusion, high strangeness and strong psychic hunches (at least) in this area of life. We have to be on guard against deceiving ourselves and being deceived by others, mostly against deceiving ourselves. The weirdness of Neptune leads people to deceive themselves that other people are deceiving them when they are not, more often than it leads people to believe in those who are fraudulent or untruthful. This is especially true when it is conjunct the Sun, Moon, ascendant or chart ruler. The lesson of Neptune is similar to the lesson of Saturn in that it requires discernment. One has to be able to discern imagination and fantasy from the far out realms of reality. If you can’t then there is only a spiral into insanity until you wake up and realise your mistake, by which time it is often too late.

Neptune’s position in a chart can be a very helpful indicator for people who practice meditation because its position in the temples and the signs as well as its aspects can show how deeper and deeper states of meditation can be attained as well as forming a signpost towards specific psychic development. For example in terms of meditation the temple position of Neptune shows the arena of life we can meditate upon in order to dive deeper into the mysteries of life and consciousness. In the 1st temple this is contemplation of the self and of identity. In the 2nd temple, contemplation of innate self worth. In the 3rd temple, contemplation of thought. In the 4th temple, contemplation of memory or time. In the 5th temple, contemplation of bliss. In the 6th temple, contemplation of devotion. In the 7th temple, contemplation of empathy. In the 8th temple, contemplation of mystery or unknowns. In the 9th temple, contemplation of truth. In the 10th temple, contemplation of purpose. In the 11th temple contemplation of hope and in the 12th temple contemplation of transcendence. As I have said the sign and aspects of Neptune can also be interpreted this way. Conduction cycles (see also here) from the Neptune key or from Neptune activations can also serve as a structure for magical or mystical meditation.

At deeper levels the significations of Neptune cannot be put across in words without referring to metaphors that only really suggest what the reality is like. However, this is not necessary as ultimately they are experiences which we can all access and understand in our own way. These deeper levels of Neptune require us to talk about the reality of spirit beings and other dimensions which interpenetrate the physical universe and with which we are in a constant state of communion. To put it simply, Neptune represents the universe that we do not see, a universe which is far vaster than the one that we do see, or can even possibly imagine. Let that sink in. The invisible reality that is all around us is not only even more expansive than the universe we perceive with our physical senses, it also surpasses the ability of even the wildest imagination to grasp, and this is comparing it to a physical universe about which we know almost nothing anyway, compared to what there is to know.

Within this universe that we do not see there are many dimensions interpenetrating our own dimension, dimensions which in their own experience are just as real as our physical universe is to us. These dimensions are populated by numerous beings, many of which are aware of us and seek to interact with us for various reasons. They are in some cases as diverse and as complex in their motivations as human beings are, while in others they are simple things that perform rote functions. Some of these beings also exist in our material universe as we do but most do not, they must visit it or communicate to it through feelings and ideas. The number of these beings and their dimensions is literally infinite, but not all of them ‘adjoin’ our Earthbound physical dimension directly. Many of the beings in these adjoining spheres are the natural, invisible hands that make astrology function. Others are the beings that make physical things work the way they do, like light, or music, or the tides, or birds, or daffodils, or literally anything in nature that you can name from the highest to the lowest, the most general to the most specific. Some really significant ones watch over entire planets. Religions call these Archangels. A planet can be conceptually conceived of as a single cell or organ in the body of the Intelligence, rather than it’s entire manifest body, although there is a hierarchy which manifests avatars or manifestations of the Greater being as guardian spirits of each world. The adjacent or physically interwoven dimensions are given visible physical representations in our physical solar system by the will of these beings – Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. In other words what we see or can see in the sky from planet Earth is a model of the dimensional layering that we are looking at – from within it – while here. This means that all of these dimensions and their beings are available to be directly accessed by all the beings on planet Earth, because our awareness is naturally structured that way. There is an observer effect at work here. Nature mirrors back to us the structure of awareness that is looking out. 

However those things beyond our visible sight and which only become available once we develop sufficient technology so that our seeing is enhanced represent dimensions which we must extend ourselves to reach into, they are representative of evolutionary stages that we are assimilating. They are not off-limits before the discovery of the planet that physically represents them, but these dimensions of awareness require enlightenment to reach before then. After they are discovered, technology starts to push us all collectively into the same territory, before then it is the choice of individuals. The danger of this collective initiation is that the consequences affect all of life on Earth and not just an individual. The other more occult danger is that once the act of seeing has taken place it becomes easier for beings on the far side not only to look back at but also to visit our reality, whether by their own magic, technology or other means. In other words, once we had discovered Uranus and then especially when we discovered Neptune, we opened the way to being visited more readily by those Intelligences from dimensions which are non-terrestrial, some of which may have a physical existence in our universe as well as a presence in and awareness of other dimensions, just as we do.

The other side of that ‘door’ opening is that the effects of humans in the physical world begin to reach into the non-material world, beginning with the closest, and start to powerfully affect the denizens of those realms. This means that human activity, for example logging and mining, begin to dramatically affect the realm of the Elementals and the spirit beings of nature. On one of the occasions when Graham Hancock took Ayahuasca he saw the spirit of Ayahuasca with a body that was broken into pieces and he understood that the damage that was being done to the Amazon was weakening the power of the spirit. Thus there is a vast invisible ocean of consequences that arise from the human imbalance with itself and nature, and the extent of environmental damage is far greater than we realise. This situation is greatly complicated because collectively we do not acknowledge that spirits even exist any more.

The ultimate reality behind all of this is that spirits exist because everything is alive and everything is alive because it is all One Life, One Self. Things continue to persist in form when no human is looking because things are themselves witnesses to their own existence. Even inanimate things have awareness that they exist. That awareness is not neural or biological but awareness does not have to be neural or biological, it is independent of form. Each and every single thing that comes into existence whether in this universe or any other knows that it exists in its own way. Thus each and every thing that exists has a spirit which arises from that part of it which knows that it exists. Since the reality of One Life, One Self is eternal and cannot be quashed, and since it is present in all things equally at all times, all of life is sacred and all that we do is done only to ourselves.

This key reality is only a part of what Neptune leads us towards, but it is an important, pivotal one – if Uranus is about the collective effort of human beings to act together in order to face the problems and make the choices that they need to, in other words about our need to reconnect with one another as human beings, then Neptune is the next step we need to take in order to heal our planet and ourselves – reconnection with the world of spirit, the One Dream, and so with the spirit of the Earth, our collective sacred Mother. Dogma, ego, ideology and cynicism must lose their grip. The test of whether we can save Her from ourselves is a test of how much we are prepared to sacrifice in order to restore the equilibrium. The temptation may be to escape into fabricated fantasy worlds and virtually crafted universes while the “real world” degenerates, or to throw up your hands in depair and hide away like a hermit, but like any escapism this only leaves a hole yearning to be filled once it is time to return to what is. By facing into reality with our imagination rather than out of reality or spurning it altogether we can bring it to bear on some of the most intransigent and long-lasting problems, opening potential visions toward new solutions, solutions which are always emerging because the infinite knows no limits and is poured forth upon the awareness even when it refuses, blindly, to see.

We must remember always that Neptune represents a path to redemption. That such a thing exists may not always be clear to us, in fact it may seem that there is no hope of it, no way to redeem what we have done. Yet such a path is always open even though it may be invisible, because the truth is what it is and cannot be made false. Enlightenment is inevitable. We can only dream of what awaits us in the endless expanse of eternity, and even then our imagination will fall short of what is there.



Astrolearn Astrology Library

The first published sources for Neptune being granted rulership of Pisces

Library of Free Astrological Books

Complete Arcana of Astral Philosophy

The Astrolologers Magazine Volume II, 1891-92

The Keeper of the Waters: I

Greetings, and welcome back to Journeys! This month I bring you my message on the discovery of the planet Neptune.


For Neptune in Pisces

and Aquiel

This is part of a series of articles I am writing on the discovery of the modern planets, previous articles in the series can be found here, herehere and here, and other articles on Neptune can be found here and here. Due to the extreme length and detail I need to go into (my last post on the discovery of the planet Uranus was over 18,000 words long, twice as long as the average for this journal) I decided to split this message into two parts so that I can supply more imagery and do not have to cut anything from it to make it more digestible. This first part of the message provides a general introduction to the topic of Neptune in astrology, an account of the historical events which led to its discovery and the people involved, its naming and mythology, and the physical properties of the planet itself which we have so far uncovered, including its moons and ring system. Next month I will provide you with the second part of this message which delineates the discovery chart for the planet, discusses the history of the development of its significations by astrologers, and dives deeply into its oceans. Discussion about the astrological function of Neptune will be floating within both parts like a mist.

In my previous article in this series on the discovery of the planet Uranus I began by writing about the overwhelming changes which we are facing as a species, many of which are driven by science and technology, as well as by the population explosion. We are moving into an era where individuals are to be interconnected as never before, and in ways we have not even imagined until recently. The harnessing of electricity alone was a revolutionary game changer for our world, but now we have the microchip and we are moving into the era of the quantum sciences. Only 50 years ago we were mostly dreaming about flying cars, rocket men, laser guns and robots. Maybe some little green men and women, and a watch with a TV in it. None of what we are currently thinking about was on the radar of anyone except the most unhinged and adventurous (i.e. prophetic) theorists, science-fiction writers and fantasists. Yet here we are, faced with the imminent arrival of countless possible futures opened up by trans-humanism, quantum reality, exopolitics and exosocioliogy (the preparatory studies of how contact with extraterrestrial intelligence would affect human politics and society), interstellar travel through warp drive and wormholes and godlike status as the creators of virtual universes we can invite others into (or imprison them in). Elon Musk is talking to us about putting neurotransmitters in our brains, settling on Mars by nuking the polar ice caps from orbit and terraforming it, in effect making us the little green men and women. As we look into the future from where we are now if our vision is clear we can see a profusion of possibilities all of which are equally bizarre and surreal compared to what we know now, and so it seems as if at least on the surface of things the only thing that we can say for sure about our future is that we will not recognise ourselves. We are going where no one has gone before in ways they haven’t even imagined before.

These many visions of where we could be going are pouring into our world through the portal we opened when we discovered Neptune. When we discovered the planet Uranus, science and technology switched gears and everything began to accelerate towards where we are today and at an increasingly rapid pace. This will continue to be so, getting faster and faster and faster, leaving more and more of us behind unless we help each other out, until finally everyone is left behind when the technology curve overtakes humanity itself and we are in a new paradigm of existence, one radically remote from where we have been. In other words, the technological curve is racing towards a point where it will outstrip the human capacity to keep up. This is a dangerous point for us because at this point we need to have a vision that holds us all together, otherwise we are likely to lose control of our own progress and it will begin to devour us spiritually and socially, perhaps even replacing humanity as we know it physically. The point I am making here is that the gifts of science and literally magical technology which break the world are inevitably followed by a multiplication of potential future paths that humanity can take with its breakthroughs, as what was miraculous quickly becomes commonplace and thus expands the mind and the imagination to encompass deeper and formerly inaccessible regions of possibility.

Every technological innovation and every scientific breakthrough in the modern age leads to a new future for everyone. Our knowledge is becoming a collective database and yet our infrastructure still reflects millennia living with knowledge as a personal database – a thing which is possessed by individuals and collected by libraries, but was by no means pulled together onto a vast network potentially accessible and alterable by every single person on the planet. Since global infrastructure is still operating under the outdated paradigm it cannot deliver on the promise of collective knowledge. What good is it to be a doctor and to know instantly all the latest research in your field if the hospital you work for doesn’t yet have the equipment or the resources to use that information, and could probably never afford it either? Your patients will suffer or die just the same as they always did, but in addition you will suffer too because you will always know that you could have saved them. Gradually, or maybe not so gradually, this will change. Technologies like 3-D printing will eventually become so sophisticated that they will inevitably break the infrastructure that operates on the old paradigms of personal knowledge. When enough of this occurs we will reach the point I have talked about, the point at which we need to have a cohesive vision for ourselves in order to retain control of our own destiny, a vision of what the new paradigm should be.

Enter Neptune, the Dream Lord, Bringer of Visions and Keeper of the Waters. For just as following on from technological innovation and scientific breakthrough come new visions and new possibilities for the future, new dreams, so too was the discovery of the planet Uranus followed by the discovery of the planet Neptune.

neptune-11629_640 (1)

The Ghost Planet

Given the astrological nature of Neptune you could not have made up a more appropriate discovery tale than what actually happened. Whereas the discovery of the planet Uranus was characteristically sudden, unexpected and surprising (is it a star?, is it a comet?, no, its Uranus!), the sequence of events surrounding the discovery of Neptune were very different. The story is one of sensing the invisible but continuously being eluded by it, seeking for a mysterious thing you know must be there but being hoodwinked either by your quarry, your unreliability, or confusions. Neptune, the planet of prophecy and divination, was literally discovered via prediction.

When William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus it was the first time that anyone in human history had discovered a world. Before that time the concept was not even part of the consensual human experience and so was largely considered fanciful and even imaginary. Yet it happened, and this moment was a watershed in the history of human awareness. After the discovery of this planet, others began to look more seriously into the deeps for signs of further unknown bodies. This is not to say that individuals before this time did not wonder about the possibility of there being other planets in our solar system but since nobody had actually demonstrated that they were there the whole concept was imaginary. Only the most visionary of minds would entertain the notion. One such mind was Galileo.

Galileo.arp.300pixWe now know that Galileo actually observed Neptune on December 28th 1612 and January 27th 1613, almost 170 years before Herschel’s discovery and over 230 years before Neptune was discovered by collective humanity. Using a self made spyglass with a magnification of 20x he was studying the moons of Jupiter when he noticed an unknown object which he probably took to be a new star. He recorded this and then about a month later seems to have realised that it had moved, with his journals indicating that he then went back over his notes and drawings to observe this movement. We know now that this was in fact Neptune because Neptune was in a close conjunction with Jupiter at the time (at 26° Virgo) and the positions he plotted for his wandering star match the actual orbital position of Neptune for that period. However, Galileo seems to have felt either uncertain or nervous about this discovery (we must not forget that he was eventually jailed for heresy by the Inquisition over heliocentrism and died under house arrest), or perhaps his restless mind forgot about it, because he kept it to himself. He was in the habit of sending short scrambled messages to his colleagues to establish his own claims to various discoveries like the rings of Saturn and the phases of Venus, but no such correspondence was sent in relation to his observations of Neptune. It’s possible, even probable given the nature of Neptune’s energy, that he actually did so but they were never unscrambled and that we have lost those messages entirely or they will show up mysteriously at some point. We also need to remember my earlier point here, that at this time the discovery of a new world was an imaginary thing, it was a far out concept. Perhaps the strength of Jupiter in Virgo was not quite enough to expand our paradigm, or perhaps this was really about seeding something in the human collective awareness through Galileo, something that would only bear fruit later. The reality today is that we don’t know what he made of it but we can easily hypothesize that in the winter of 1612-13, he suspected that it was a planet. For whatever reason, Neptune slipped through his net and swam away into the ocean for another 233 years.

We know of at least two other occasions on which Neptune was almost captured but dematerialised. On May 8th and 10th 1795 in Paris a star was noted in the position of Neptune but the uncertainty of its position was denoted with a colon, which was also used to indicate errors in observation, and so Neptune escaped. Then, the son of William Herschel, John, almost followed in his fathers footsteps on July 14th 1830, but he mistook Neptune for a star even though he could see it as a small blue disc. Neptune evaded us again. 


Alexis Bouvard

In 1821, forty years after Herschel announced his discovery to the world, no further new planets had been discovered despite improvements in telescopes and far greater interest in the possibility, but great advances had been made by astronomers in observing the movements and behaviour of the new planet Uranus. A French astronomer named Alexis Bouvard had been working out some of these details and published them. In these tables he showed that the new planet was not behaving as expected and he theorized that the cause was the gravitational effect of an undiscovered planet, but he was unable to prove this. However, his calculations opened the door for the eventual discovery of Neptune two decades later. At this time in history Neptune was actually conjunct Uranus (in Capricorn, just as it was in the early 1990s when this conjunction recurred), and so the ghost planet was literally setting itself up to come on stage.


John Couch Adams

When Uranus had moved 90° away from that conjunction with Neptune, 22 years later in 1843, the trail is picked up by a 24 year old Cambridge graduate (and later professor) named John Couch Adams, who had learned about Bouvard’s work while an undergraduate and had become convinced that a mysterious undiscovered planet was responsible. He believed that in the face of everything that had been attempted before that he could calculate the mass, position and orbit of this new planet using the observed data on Uranus and applications of Newton’s laws of gravitation. And it’s here that the real controversies start because the trail is also being picked up in continental Europe by 32 year old French astronomer Urbain Le Verrier. Unbeknown to one another the two scientists/mathematicians begin working on the same mystery. It’s important to note that at this time in history relations between the French and the British were not exactly cordial, and scientific discovery was fiercely competitive, and so what was brewing in this cauldron was controversy and trouble.

Sir George Biddell Airy Photograph by Morgan & Kidd, 1891

Sir George Biddell Airy

This invisible cat seems to have come out of the bag through the involvement of the current Astronomer Royal, Sir George Airy, who was 45. Adams took his work on the ghost planet to James Challis, director of Cambridge Observatory, in September 1845, requesting more data from the Astronomer Royal, which he received. He then attempted to meet with Sir George Airy twice in October, but he called on Greenwich Observatory unannounced, while Airy was busy dealing with both incest–murder charges against a senior worker and the impending birth of his seventh child. Adams leaves his manuscript with Airy, but does not supply all the calculations. Airy writes back to him requesting them, but they never arrive. Adams is too disorganized, nervous, procrastinating or forgetful. Airy is a mathematician, he needs the crunch before he feels convinced, so he lets it slide. However, when Le Verrier published his first prediction on the position of the new planet on June 1st 1846 it came almost immediately to the attention of Sir George who recognised its similarity to the calculations that Adams had made, and realizing the urgency he immediately acted by forming a secret group including Challis and Adams. He had considered Adam’s work little more than a curiosity up until this point, but now he realised the race was on for a huge prize. Challis was instructed to scan the heavens and Adams supplied some directions.

James Challis

James Challis

And so it was that the summer of 1846 became a race to capture Neptune. Challis was sent searching the wrong parts of the sky by some of Adam’s calculations, but even so Challis himself observed Neptune on two occasions (August 8th and August 12th). However because he lacked an up-to-date star map he was unable to identify it as the new planet, and so he missed it. Le Verrier on the other hand was completely oblivious to the secret group competing with him in the discovery market and had been unable to gather any interest from influential astronomers. So on September 18th he sent his findings to the Berlin Observatory in Germany and asked them to look for the new planet. Five days later this letter was received by Johann Gottfried Galle, a 34-year-old astronomer. After talking to a student at the university who suggested comparing an existing image of the area of the sky with current observations, Galle became the first human being to lay eyes on Neptune and know definitively what he was looking at. It was just 1° away from where Le Verrier had predicted it would be and about 12° away from Adams prediction. The date was September 24th, 1846. Galle always maintained that the credit for the discovery should be Le Verrier’s, but history records Galle in most entries. He wrote back to Le Verrier saying:

“the planet whose place you have computed really exists.” (emphasis in original)


Johann Galle

This one sentence is a fitting end to the search for the phantom planet, but is not the end to the story. In hindsight, it might seem clear but at the time this entire sequence of events was extremely controversial and mysterious and ignited fierce rivalries between France and England. Argument raged over who should have attribution for discovery, Adams or Le Verrier, with the storm eventually settling down to agree on a joint attribution. However, the spirit of this controversy returned to haunt us again in 1998 with the recovery of documents stolen from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich (seemingly by a respected astronomer). These documents, referred to as “the Neptune papers”, which had been missing for decades, strongly imply that John Couch Adams was essentially “spun” by British astronomers (i.e., Airy) in a positive way, in other words that his calculations were fuzzier than what was actually reported. 


The Naming

Le Verrier was soon showered with honours as the world and especially Europe was set ablaze with wonder and expressions of admiration, he was blessed with rewards and praise and was almost euphoric upon learning that he was definitely not crazy or imagining things, having everything that he had worked for confirmed.


Urbain Le Verrier

There was talk of how marvelous it was that the human brain could outperform a telescope. It was ecstatic to be at the centre of. However, his mood was soon overturned by the naming crisis which almost immediately emerged. At a certain point, when he was asked to provide his opinion on what this new planet should be called, he was acting weirdly from an emotional dilemma due to the fierce rivalries among astronomers on both sides of the waters. In an invisible way he had tied his fate to that of the world he tracked down, and in this respect it’s fascinating to note that the word in French for transparent glass (anything invisible is Neptunian) is ‘verre’.

The ‘planet exterior to Uranus’, as it was initially referred to, soon gained a plethora of potential names. After setting eyes on the new world, Galle immediately proposed the name Janus “…the most ancient deity of the Romans, whose double face signifies its position at the frontier of the solar system”.


The Berlin Observatory, now destroyed.

When Le Verrier received the confirmation letter from Berlin on September 28th it arrived just a bit too late to be announced at the Academy of Science meeting on that day and so instead he gave the story to French newspapers who published it on September 30th, 1846. In this publication he proposed the name Neptune. With the publication of these papers the news reached the front page of ‘The Times’ in England the next day. When that issue landed on Airys desk, he went pale. The French had beaten him! 

Cue all hell, breaking loose. 

Le Verrier wrote back to Galle in Berlin on that day, October 1st, expressing his dislike for the name Janus on the grounds that it implied that Neptune (the name he proposed in this letter) was the last planet in the solar system to be discovered, which he saw no grounds for. An interesting Neptunian thing happens when this letter arrives as a visiting astronomer (Sir Henry Holland) is discussing with Galle and the Director of the Berlin Observatory the topic of naming the planet. ‘Vulcan’ was suggested by the Director and Galle replied that he was expecting a letter from Le Verrier to arrive soon with his suggestions, which the group agreed they would defer to. Less than an hour later there was a knock at the door and the letter arrived proposing Neptune. The director then declared that the name must then be Neptune. Holland later wrote of this moment:

“It was a midnight scene not easily to be forgotten. A royal baptism, with its long array of titles, would ill compare with this simple naming of the remote and solitary planet thus wonderfully discovered. There is no place, indeed, where the grandeur and wild ambitions of the world are so thoroughly rebuked, and dwarfed into littleness, as in the Astronomical Observatory”.

Note that the post arrives at midnight! This might be the norm for night sky watchers, or it might have been unusual, I don’t know.

Le Verrier also wrote three letters to important observatories in Europe on October 1st in which he proposed again the name Neptune but also in addition the symbol of a trident for its use. Yet in these letters it seems that instead of simply expressing his wishes directly by saying “I want it to be called Neptune and for its symbol to be a trident”, he chose to give the impression that these things had already been approved by the French Bureau des Longitudes, when in fact it had had no opportunity to meet. This caused a lot of trouble for him later when amidst the mayhem to come the Bureau had to refute these claims and threaten him with legal action.

At this point French astronomers (led by their most eminent personage, Francois Arago) began insisting on naming the planet after Le Verrier himself, to the extent where they declared they will use no other name, regardless of what others decide. The name ‘Herschel’ began to replace others in the French almanacs and in reference to the planet Uranus as part of this effort. Some suspect that this was a devious scheme by Le Verrier himself, but I doubt this. However, it does fit the theme of Neptune whether or not it happens to be true – suspicions of fraud and deception are just as much a thing of Neptune as actual fraud and deception.

Across the channel in England Sir George Airy proposes the name Oceanus, claiming that Neptune “disturbs my mythological ideas”, but the reception of the French to the British claim is caustic. The situation starts to get really toxic as the old national rivalries ignite. Britain and France both claim the right to name the world, implying their precedence of discovery. We have to remember that this is the beginning of the Victorian era and that Sir George Airy as Astronomer Royal is a very widely respected figure in European astronomy. This is the point at which Le Verrier shrinks back from proposing anything all, lapsing into silence on the matter and becoming confused, nervous or evasive when asked about it. However, privately he makes references to the pretensions of the British and that he is sickened by the whole affair. He had seen an English man trying to steal his glory, French astronomers insisting on naming it after him and then astronomers elsewhere in Europe pushing back against that. He was, in modern parlance, totally pissed off with the whole situation and withdrew from keeping up with developments. He was no longer part of the work at the observatory and did not engage in his usual socialization. He was the greatest astronomer in France, probably the greatest astronomer France has ever known, but glory had turned incredibly sour. He refers to his discovery at this point as “the unfortunate planet” and in correspondence he is making a final effort to have it named after himself in defiance of the British (doing so by proclaiming that he is adopting ‘Herschel’ for Uranus). At this point I get the feeling that he himself is not only tired, disenchanted and disillusioned with the whole process but also confused about how to resolve it.


Neptune Fountain, Berlin

Things churn on without him of course, with arguments that Adams was the first theoretical discoverer and that British data on Uranus had been used, or that Galle had been first to knowingly see it and so it should be a German and not a Frenchman who names it. The result was that a confusing smog of names were conjured and in use by the end of 1847, including Hyperion, Minerva and even Demogorgon. The situation at this point was also the same concerning the naming of the planet Uranus. While all this mayhem is going on, however, Sir George Airy writes a letter to Le Verrier on February 28th 1847 that ultimately breaks the deadlock by saying he will adopt Neptune so this gives us a day upon which we can say the issue was effectively settled (as much as any issue of Neptune is effectively settled, since Le Verrier apparently made no reply). This name then emerged as a default position (especially as Friedrich von Struve, a prominent German/Russian astronomer, came out in favour of it on December 29th 1846, which may have prompted Airy to do the same). Nobody especially liked this but Neptune had emerged as the name through being the least partisan, with co-discovery through an Anglo-French effort being the cause. Once this situation settled in, further degrees of consensus emerged among astronomers. They agreed that comets would be named after their discoverers but that new planets would be named after mythological beings and gods. The names attributed to the planet Uranus were gradually changed to the name we use today. Thus the confusion and controversy surrounding the naming of Neptune led to the abandonment of egoistic and nationalistic based attempts to gain a token immortality in the heavens and the adoption of naming new worlds after deities and other mythic beings, confusion settled into a new convention, and poor Le Verrier became the sacrifice. Herschel may have been the first person to discover a new world, but Le Verrier was the first to predict one into reality.



The adoption of the name Neptune immediately connected this world with all mythologies relating to the ocean and all deities of the sea, and different cultures followed suit with their languages. Greeks named it Poseidon, Maoris named it Tangaroa, the Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese and Korean people translated it as “Sea King Star”, and so on. However what is less well known about Neptune and a large number of the deities connected to the ocean and the sea throughout the world is that the deity is not only connected with ocean life but also springs, rivers, streams, fountains and other bodies of water inland, and that this connection to inland water may actually even be older than the connection to oceans in some cases, for example in Greek myth Poseidon may originally have been the deity of springs. Furthermore, this deity is also often connected with earthquakes, chariots, and horses. In fact he is also originally thought to have been a god of horses before he was a god of the sea. This connection is obvious in much of the statuary of Poseidon and Neptune which depicts him being drawn by seahorses or water spirits in the shape of horses (sometimes dolphins, who were sacred to him) while he stands with a billowing cloak upon a giant conch shell like the coolest surfer ever. The connection to earthquakes may seem a little mysterious until you think about the effect of earthquakes under the ocean and how destructive and godlike a force of nature these can be, especially to people in the ancient world. The horses are actually spirit beings called hippocamps, and you see them pop up time and time again in the mythologies of the world that are connected to spirits of the oceans and the seas, as well as rivers. They embody the energy of the ocean, the currents and the movement of the waves. It seems that the connection of this deity to horses began its decline in the time of the Romans, who were very keen on inventing gods for everything and so invented or formed their own god of horses. The connection to horses and chariots is mythically traced back to the tale of him working with Minerva (Athena in Greek) to create them. Athens was a major city for Poseidon/Neptune, and the two deities seem to have had some kind of dispute over who would claim the city, with Athena emerging the winner even though Poseidon gifted the King of Athens with the original horse, probably formed from a Hippocamp. The god of the oceans has one of his many tantrums when he is refused the prize and afflicts Athens with a drought.

It’s worth dwelling on these violent and often petulant temper tantrums for a little bit, as they are very at odds with our picture of astrological Neptune. The dark side of this god is actually very dark indeed, giving us a strong warning about the destructive power of this seemingly placid, passive planet. Time and again in the Greek and Roman traditions he behaves abominably, showing us that even the gods are not above petty human frailties and dark desires and drives. In some cases he comes across as impossible to please, capricious and merciless, even evil. Perhaps the most powerful example of this is the tale of his rape of Medusa, the famed Gorgon. Before she became a monster she was a beautiful priestess of Athena. Her hair was so beautiful that people whispered that it was even more beautiful than the hair of the goddess herself. Vain and insecure Athena grows jealous. Meanwhile, Poseidon is growing lustful and one day he just decides to have his way with the beautiful mortal girl. She runs into the temple of Athena for protection, but the goddess ignores her and Poseidon rapes her. Now, you get different versions of the story at this point with some saying that Medusa was so horrified that her hair transformed into snakes, and another saying that a disgusted and enraged Athena appeared to her afterward and being unable to punish Poseidon (a likely excuse) chose to heap all the punishment onto Medusa, cursing her. Following this, her serpentine head is chopped off by Perseus who has been gifted everything he needs to do that job by the gods themselves, including Athena, and at this point Medusas headless corpse gives birth to the twin offspring of Poseidon which issues from her blood as a winged horse, Pegasus, and Chrysaor, a giant wielding a golden sword. Then, even in death, she acts as a force for good, allowing Perseus to defeat the sea monster Cetus and rescue Andromeda. Medusa is one of the most misunderstood, most unfairly maligned and wrongly perceived figures in all of mythology, and she has her unwanted and uninvited contact with the god of oceans to thank for that. He distorts things as if seen under water, water that is today often very murky. 

In noting some of the darker elements of Poseidon/Neptune I would like to mention that as an astrologer our use of mythology to delineate the nature of the planets seems to work best when we focus not on the actual stories and tales connected to the deity, but on their character. The tales are often culturally embedded and therefore require cultural decryption by outsiders, but the character of these beings is often much more universal. The stories attached to gods of the sea may differ, but we see time and again the same imagery, associations and character traits in their behaviour, no matter the culture. Neptune, along with his other expressions in mythology, is often unforgiving, vindictive and vengeful (Tangaroa remains angry at the gods of the land even today for harboring the reptile children who left him, for example), pointing to the potential emotional turbulence of this world. He is also often lustful and exceptionally potent and fertile, siring countless children with everything that he can, not just humans but nymphs and animals as well. Randy isn’t the word, the guy has a serious sex addiction problem and is depicted as a serial rapist by the Greeks. He often takes the form of running water or an animal for these sordid seductions, and I’m not aware of any stories about him seducing men, although I know they were told at one point. However the position of these oceanic deities is also often primordial, they are fertile as gods which means they are involved in the creation and/or domains of the universe as we know it. Poseidon for example draws lots with his brothers Zeus (Jupiter) and Hades (Pluto) after the war against the Titans (during which the Cyclops crafted Poseidon’s magical trident for him), with Zeus gaining the sky, Hades the land and the underworld and Poseidon the seas and waters. Repeatedly in studying the myths of gods of the sea they are also described as gods of the cosmic or primordial sea, progenitors of life, and I think it is these ideas that the later Greeks are turning into misogynistic sexual scandals, probably for entertainment purposes.

For obvious reasons these deities are primarily worshiped by seafaring people and islanders, which is maybe one big reason why there are so few temples to Neptune or Poseidon mentioned in history. Perhaps they are under the waves now. In most cases offerings have to be made to the ocean deity before fishing or setting out in boats, in recognition of the fact that in leaving the land one is departing one realm for another and must show its host the proper respects. These people know all too well the fury of the sea and often perform rituals to keep it calm. In Rome Neptune had but one temple – near the racetrack – which we know already existed in 206 BC but was actually built on the site of a much older altar about which we know nothing. The main festival called Neptunalia took place on July 23rd at the height of the summer and was devoted to the practice of conserving and draining water. The rituals often took place in the forest under huts made from branches, the participants drinking spring water and wine in the shade. In keeping with the spirit of Neptune, it was a libidinous time freeing people to behave merrily without the usual social constraints.

Before leaving this section I would like to point readers to “The Gods of Change” (1989) by Howard Sasportas, in which he makes a compelling case equating the principle of Neptune with the mythology of Orpheus. If you’re looking for a story from classical mythology that expresses astrological Neptune, it seems to me that the story of Orpheus resonates much more powerfully with it than the mythology connected to the deity. There is for example the fact that Orpheus is a musician who is able to drive people mad, into ecstasy or despair through the power of his playing, the fatal doubt and distrust, nervousness or suspicion that causes him to look behind at the last moment and lose his dream lover, and the surreal tragedy of his death at the hands of people living in denial of tragedy, which then ironically reunites him with that lover.


The Physical Planet

There is a reason why Neptune was so elusive for so long, that being the massive distance at which it orbits the Sun. Twice as far flung as the planet Uranus is, Neptune is completely invisible to the naked eye and only occasionally visible as a blue dot through even modern portable telescopes. Add to this the meteorological problems of cloud cover and the planet has a very effective cloaking device. Measured in miles the distance to Neptune is about 2.8 billion miles, or 4.5 billion km, 30 times as far away from the Sun as we are. This is a very dark and cold region of space and beyond this point very little is known as we are only just beginning to explore it. This vast distance has kept things hidden from us even until recently, with most of the moons of Neptune only being discovered in the late 80s and the early part of this century. For a very long time, there were only theories and imagination about what this world was really like, and most of what we know today comes from the Voyager 2 mission which also gave us our data and images of the planet Uranus. Voyager 2 reached Neptune on August 25th 1989, – exactly thirty years ago from the time of writing – and we haven’t been back since, despite a number of plans being drawn up. Telescopes like Hubble continue to give us more information until we can go back, but there are no public plans in motion to do so at the moment.

Both visually and materially Neptune is very similar to Uranus, being an azure blue colour that is slightly deeper in hue and slightly larger in size. Neptune also appears with rings, moons, fierce winds, a weirdly off-centred magnetosphere and some anomalies which are similar to those we have observed on Uranus. It is also an ‘ice giant’, a subclass of gas giants that are thought to arise from icy components rather than gaseous ones when the solar system was being formed. At first glance, one could argue that Uranus and Neptune are twins. However, Neptune has more meteorological activity, having displayed both a Great Dark Spot and a Small Dark Spot, whirlpools in the cloud layer, the former of which we observed to have disappeared and be replaced only five years after it was first sighted, and there are other notable differences between the two.


It is extremely large compared to our planet, being 17 times the mass of Earth, but it rotates on its axis at a very similar angle to ours. This means that it experiences seasons much like our planet does, namely it has a spring, summer, autumn and winter with an equal amount of time allotted for each, however because the orbit of Neptune is so far away each of these seasons lasts about 40 Earth years (while its day is only 16 of our hours, an hour less than a day on Uranus). A single year on Neptune (one orbit of the Sun) is about 165 years on Earth.

Of course, seasons on Neptune are nothing like seasons on planet Earth. This is the stormiest planet in the solar system. The winds on Neptune reach the highest recorded speed of any wind ever observed, a near supersonic 600 metres per second (three times as fast as the fastest wind speed recorded for the planet Uranus). This equals a speed of about 1300 mph, fast enough to blow you into atoms. Part of the cause of this high speed is the fact that the poles of Neptune rotate at a different speed than the equatorial regions, because ice giants are mostly fluid, and so their mass rotates like a cyclone. Theoretical models also show that the high-pressure involved in this planets atmosphere causes methane to decompose and be crushed into diamond crystals which rain down from the sky and collect in the mantle of the planet, as I explained in the previous article in this series (this is also thought to occur on Jupiter and Saturn). This means that human beings cannot survive a landing on Neptune. There is first of all nothing to land upon except the core of the planet where unbelievable pressures and temperatures make life impossible for us, just as it would be if we had to live on the core of planet Earth but with far greater forces involved. We don’t know of course what the core of Neptune is made of but it is thought to be composed of iron, nickel and various silicates. I think it will prove to be more exotic than that.

The same I think will also prove true of the mantle and the atmosphere of this planet. While Neptune’s atmosphere is ultra cold the mantle of Neptune is a hot fluid substance like the mantle of the Earth, and is thought to be composed of methane and ammonia as well as water, and is highly conductive. Oxygen is thought to crystallise inside this mantle deeper down. At the top of the atmosphere of Neptune the composition is mostly hydrogen and helium, but trace amounts of methane are present which act to filter out the red light the planet receives, giving it its sapphire blue colouring. However it is thought that there may be some other agent at work deepening the colour, something other than the darkness of space. Like Uranus, despite being extremely far-flung from the local source of heat Neptune is mysteriously hot, even more so than Uranus is. It receives less than half of the energy from the Sun than Uranus does but is equivalent in surface temperature, somehow emitting more than 2.5 times more than the amount of energy it receives, energy which drives those hellish winds. In 2007 it was observed that there was a hotter area located at the south pole which allowed massive plumes of methane to fountain out into space. This is caused by the south pole facing directly into the Sun, so that when Neptune moves to the other side of the Sun the fountain will be emitted from the north pole instead.

inner moons of neptune with triton

Neptune’s most important accessory is its trident moon, Triton, but like its mythological namesake it seems to have created quite a little nest or family for itself. Currently we are aware of 14 moons, and there are definitely more which we do not know about currently. Most of these moons are very small, a few dozens of kilometres across in some cases, but Triton is significantly larger and spherical in shape, while the remaining moons are irregular in form. Astronomers currently group the moons of Neptune into two groups which they label as regular and irregular moons. Seven regular moons have inner circular orbits resting in Neptune’s equatorial plane, while seven irregular moons, with the exception of Triton, have egg shaped elliptical orbits far-flung from Neptune and are often in retrograde orbits, which means they rotate around Neptune in the opposite direction to the direction that Neptune itself is rotating on its axis. The main distinction is that the regular moons are closer and are thought to have formed within Neptune’s orbit while the irregular moons are farther away and are thought to have been captured by Neptune at some point and been drawn in towards its orbit from the Kuiper belt. All the moons are named after water nymphs, sprites or deities in the same way that the moons of Uranus have been named after air spirits.

The first moon was discovered just 17 days after Neptune itself on October 10th, 1846 by English astronomer William Lassell. This was Triton, which is unsurprising because it makes up about 99% of the mass of Neptune’s moons, but the name Triton did not come into common usage until the 1930s. The other moons are so tiny and so far away that it was 103 years before the second one, Nereid, revealed itself (May 1st, 1949). Larissa, the third moon, was detected on May 24, 1989, just before Voyager 2 arrived in late August 1989 and added five more (Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Galatea and Proteus). The remaining moons have only been discovered in the 21st century from the use of large ground-based telescopes. Halimede, Sao, Psamathe, Laomedeia and Neso were discovered on August 13/14th 2001, and a year later an additional potential moon or possibly a centaur was observed but then we lost track of it and so it remains undiscovered for now. The 14th and most recently discovered moon, Hippocamp, was discovered on July 1, 2013, only six years ago, and was given its name in February of this year.


Closest to Neptune, the inner (regular) moons in order of distance are Naiad, Thalassa, Despina, Galatea, Larissa, Hippocamp (labeled as S/2004 N1 in the images), and Proteus. Naiad, the closest moon of Neptune, takes about 8hrs to orbit Neptune. The first three of these moons orbit Neptune faster than it rotates and so are projected to eventually be pulled apart as they draw closer to it. Proteus is the largest of the inner moons at a diameter of 420 km (about 261 miles) and Hippocamp the smallest with a diameter of only about 35 km (about 22 miles). We know almost nothing about them, in fact we know almost nothing about any of the moons, with most of our data being on Triton. Current thinking on these moons is that they were formed after Neptune captured Triton from its former position as a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, causing massive disruptions when it entered the system. The Adams ring system of Neptune is probably composed of smaller debris from this event.

outer moons of neptune

The irregular (outer) moons of Neptune in order of distance (closest to furthest) are Triton, Nereid, Halimede, Sao, Laomedeia, Psamanthe and Neso. Neso, the farthest moon of Neptune, takes about 26 years to complete an orbit. Triton and Nereid are the two largest irregular or outer moons of any planet in our solar system, with Triton having a diameter of about 2700 km (about 1700 miles) and Nereid a diameter of about 350 km (about 218 miles). They also both have quite remarkable orbits with Triton’s being perfectly circular and Nereid’s being extremely eccentric. Triton takes about 6 days to orbit. Projections show that Triton’s retrograde orbit and its proximity to Neptune will lead to its destruction in about 3.5 billion years. When Voyager 2 performed its flyby of Triton it observed geological activity in the form of 8km high nitrogen geysers at the polar cap, an indication that there may be a subterranean ocean looked deep within the moon’s core. Settling on Triton in any form would have to contend with some of the coldest temperatures recorded anywhere in the solar system (about -235C, at which point you have to deal with nitrogen and carbon monoxide freezing, which is extremely beautiful to look at but lethal). As is the case with our Moon, Triton’s rotation is tidally locked so that it always presents the same face towards Neptune. Water ice is present on the surface (as on Nereid too) and some kind of subterranean ocean could potentially harbor life as on Jupiter’s moon Europa. Triton takes about 6 days to orbit, meaning time contracts to a 6 day month on Neptune.


Neptune has five named rings which were first discovered on 22 July 1984 in Chile. This allowed them to be photographed by Voyager 2 years later. Naiad, Thalassa, Galatea and Despina have their orbits within the rings. One of these rings has five arcs which are proving to be surprisingly persistent and permanent, having existed since they were observed in the 1980s. There is no explanation for them. Three of these rings are narrow with a width of only about 100 km, while the remaining two a very broad with a width of thousands of kilometres. All five ring systems are reddish in colour and composed of large quantities of dust making them similar in composition to the rings of Jupiter and very dissimilar to the ring systems seen on Saturn and Uranus (which contain very little dust). The moons of Despina and Galatea (and probably others) act as shepherd moons for the ring system (moons which cause the rings to form and maintain their shape). These five rings have been named after astronomers who contributed to our knowledge of Neptune, and so Le Verrier gained a consolation prize, but he did not live to know about it. A very faint sixth ring has yet to receive a name. Some of Neptunes rings are only partial, and are the remnants of former moons. 

Currently considered the last planet of the solar system after the re-categorisation of Pluto as a dwarf planet, Neptune may be forced to give up that position in the 21st century. In this decade astronomers have uncovered strong evidence that a super-Earth planet 2 to 15 times the mass of Earth may exist as far as 200 to 1500 times the distance from Earth to the Sun. They base this prediction on mathematical modeling much as astronomers did in the pursuit to discover Neptune. So far despite looking very intently for it they have been unable to locate it, but it may just be a matter of time before Neptune, the Lord of the Deeps, introduces us to a titan.

Next month, we go deeper, join me for a dive!










Rising Signs II

Greetings, and welcome back to Journeys! This month I give you the second part of my 24,000 words on the ascendant or rising sign. This month I cover Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces rising. Please join in the conversation in the comments for either post and if you would like to help contribute to the contination of this site please visit us at Patreon to make a pledge.  journey deeper…

Rising Signs I

Greetings, Solstice Blessings and welcome back to Journeys! 🙂 Things are still busy in my life, but I am returning to you this month and next with a two-part series that complements my earlier two-part series on rising planets published this year, “Arising Worlds”, by looking at each of the 12 signs on the ascendant. This month I take you through Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo and Virgo. I will cover each sign in terms of 5 categories: embodiment (how it affects the body, aura, attire and gait and posture), traits (mostly psychological), difference to the Sun or Moon sign, significance of rulers placement and well known faces. If you enjoy this or benefit from it, please consider pledging some support on Patreon. journey deeper…

Arising Worlds II

Greetings and welcome back to Journeys! This month I give you part 2 of Arising Worlds in which we look at Jupiter, Saturn, Chiron, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto on the ascendant. As was noted by a reader in the comments last month information on rising planets can be extrapolated to the characteristics of rising signs, so that Jupiter rising has quite a bit in common with both Sagittarius and Pisces rising, which are its two signs, and so on.  journey deeper…