Le Neptiste Molly Johnstone: Part 1

Introducing Le Neptiste, a column of the Real Imaginal online magazine, dedicated to the re-enchantment of Neptune.

The planetary archetype of Neptune carries the impulse to create art, to experience divine beauty and its play of creativity which longs for expression in our lives and in our world. Neptune is to dream, to imagine—that is, to bring into existence that which doesn’t exist; to birth or to witness, and to be enraptured; to access the divine spark, the love which animates the cosmos. Neptune heralds the mythic dimensions’ endless giving birth through planet Earth, beckoning all beings to drink of the imaginal.

Le Neptiste will feature interviews with artists, examining their natal charts, transits and work in some depth, with a focus on both the fulfilling and the problematic sides of embodying Neptune in a disenchanted world.[1]

Our inaugural series is launched with Molly Johnstone, a 34-year-old artist working in mixed media, photography and poetry, currently living in Sedona, Arizona. Molly and I met at our alma mater, California Institute of Integral Studies, where we both obtained Master’s degrees from the Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness department and where we delved in depth into the upperworld (and underworld) of Neptune through a Neptune support group called The Neptune Society.[2]

This conversation between Erica Jones and Molly Johnstone was recorded on May 4, 2013.

Molly Johnstone Birth Chart
Molly’s Birth Chart

Question: Have you always known you are an artist, a writer, a photographer, a magician of the aesthetic? Or at what age did you realize your call?

Molly reports being preoccupied with beauty as far back as she can remember, recalling drawing sessions with a cousin or painting alone, simply being drawn to depict the world around her. “Since my father is an artist, I felt that I had received his talent or his artist genes,” Molly says, but it’s been a slow journey to absorbing the Artist as a part of her identity for it wasn’t until Molly’s Saturn return in her 27th through 30th year that the Artist emerged for her as a clear spiritual path of self-discovery and meaningful conversation with the world. Her art then became “a way of focusing that diffuse [Neptunian] energy into something that is real.”

But finding the impetus for focusing that energy—which saturates her whole identity as reflected by a remarkably exact Sun-Moon conjunction also conjunct Neptune in the 12th House—was not immediate. As with most things involving Neptune, time is required, more time than industrialized societies so beholden to Saturn’s representations of time (linear, “productive,” sequential, definite) would typically allow for an individual’s self-development. The Sun represents one’s conscious sense of self, or “the ego,” and sense of direction or future, while the Moon is one’s more instinctual self, the unconscious, but also the family, the collectives to which one belongs, one’s emotional being, the past. In such a tight conjunction, the experience can be one of a fusion of conscious and unconscious, past and future, a difficulty with differentiating one’s emotions from one’s identity, and identifying with the collective, with the family, as well as experiencing one’s parents as a single, indivisible unit.

Add Neptune to the mix, and there can be an idealization (Neptune) of the parents (who are often described by the Sun and Moon in a person’s natal chart); an unrealistic idealization of the self (Sun); one’s emotions appearing constantly illusory due to internal confusion through identifying with or being flooded with others’ emotional states (Moon) as well as others’ sense of trajectory or future orientation (Sun). The capacity to merge with (Neptune) another’s sense of self (Sun) or bodily experience (Moon) is quite literal for this combination. This merging capacity can be aggravated by a tremendous difficulty in gaining any objective perspective on either the conscious self (Sun) or unconscious (Moon), due to the Sun fusing with the Moon through Neptune.[3]

The presence of Neptune is further amplified by this stellium’s (a conjunction of three or more planets) 12th House placement, an area of the chart which carries the themes of Neptune, and is sometimes referred to as the “house of self-undoing.” In the sense of unconscious self-sabotage, this is quite true for also representing the “house of secret enemies,” it is where we discover our own worst enemy can often be ourselves! This would be especially true for someone with either the Sun or Moon in the 12th House, though any planet occupying the 12th House is ripe for careful exploration, particularly through nonrational or intuitive and spiritual means, as it will likely hold some critical keys to one’s relationship with Mystery, with the divine, and with one’s own Soul. This latter interpretation of “self-undoing” is much more positive than modern society would admit, as it requires an orientation to belonging and to identity that goes beyond the ordinary or mundane, that is, it requires a sense of enchantment and a means of structured engagement with those transpersonal realms[4] of our human existence.

Molly Johnstone, mixed media collage, Mandrake (c)
Copyright © 2015 Molly Johnstone, mixed media collage, Mandrake

Were your parents supportive of your artistic endeavors? Was your cultural environment supportive? Conversely, were there any perceived obstacles? Do these persist? If so, have they changed?

Reflecting on her upbringing, Molly shares that her parents were so supportive of all of her endeavors, she lacked a necessary boundary, a necessary limitation which would force a more concentrated effort to find herself and locate her own desires. The nature of the support actually presented her with an obstacle of sorts! This is again reflective of the Sun-Moon-Neptune stellium in the 12th House, in which the parents might merge with the child, and the child with the parents, through the boundarylessness of Neptune, losing a sense of the unique will, striving and emotional response crucial to personal identity.

During her youth, Molly leapt into the river of athletics, which probably satisfied the Mars square Saturn-Jupiter of her, as well as providing a necessary experience of limits, boundaries and resistance which that particular aspect evokes, where Mars represents the athlete, the muscles and one’s will or pursuit of desire, and a 90-degree angle (square) to Saturn bringing limitation, inhibition, judgments or pressing Mars to react in some way, though the presence of Jupiter brings the possibility for more confidence and expansion of the desire to win, to compete and to succeed. I’ve noticed that Saturn and Jupiter in hard aspect (square, opposition or conjunction) tend to play tag team in a person’s psyche—one or the other exerting more influence, often in shadow form—until (or if) the person is able to integrate the two’s functioning together, usually through a lot of hard work towards gaining genuine self-esteem.

Though she left the intensity of athletics in her junior year of high school to focus on her intellectual and artistic interests, Molly says that she continued to wrestle with a lack of direction into adulthood, though she has located a crucial resolve to work through it. She identifies with the escapism of the puer or puella archetype, which is also known as the Eternal Child and expresses one of visionary Neptune’s themes. “Making a decision has always been such a difficulty for me because there are so many doors, that possibilities are endless,” Molly relates, lamenting that making a choice will force her into that most uncomfortable Saturnian place for those who are Neptunian: commitment and responsibility. As for a remedy to this tendency to need endless options, avenues and cracks to eke through, Molly says, “I need to stop thinking in such black-and-white terms,” and realize that creativity doesn’t dead end at commitment.

Rootless novelty is a far cry from genuine belonging as a creative being in one’s society and the cosmos. A good analogy may be choosing to enter a house and open all of its doors, exploring each room, rather than only opening the front door of an endless litany of houses—peering inside of many places but never really taking up residence, lending a surface appearance of “novelty” but falling short of genuine creativity for remaining in the relative safety of rudderless daydreaming, safe from the risks of meaningful engagement with a world hungry for one’s gifts and talents and full-bodied being.

In the next part of this series of Le Neptiste featuring the artist Molly Johnstone, we will explore how the various media she works with expresses various archetypal complexes in her natal chart, how her creative process is also reflected in her chart and consider the role of art in her life.

Note: You may view and purchase prints of some of Molly’s art on her site dissolution images.

To have your chart read by Erica Jones and to learn more about her practice, please click here


[1] Disenchanted refers to the modern experience of the world and its phenomena as devoid of cosmically ordained meanings and purposes. The term “disenchanted” (entzaubert) was popularized in the early 20th century by the sociologist Max Weber and describes a world which is approached “in terms of neutral facts, the detached rational understanding of which [gives] the human being an unprecedented capacity to calculate, control, and manipulate that world” (p. 20, Cosmos and Psyche, Richard Tarnas). Tarnas notes that the human “ambition to emancipate ourselves as autonomous subjects by objectifying the world has in a sense come full circle, returned to haunt us, by turning the human self into an object as well—an ephemeral side effect of a random universe, an isolated atom in mass society, a statistic, a commodity, passive prey to the demands of the market, prisoner of the self-constructed modern ‘iron cage.’ …For the cosmology of a civilization both reflects and influences all human activity, motivation and self-understanding that take place within its parameters. It is the container for everything else” (ibid., p. 33).

[2] The Neptune Society was born on February 19, 2010 at 7pm in San Francisco, California. It was conceived as a support group for those who have Neptune, Sun and Mercury OR Neptune, Sun and Moon in hard aspect, its membership expanding and contracting until it eventually closed to all but six members who committed to regular attendance. The Neptune Society existed as a place to receive witness of the briny deeps of Neptune with others who have also struggled with the confusion, depression, heights and lows born of the mystical planet, guided by a shared intention of “Awakening to Love, Awakening to Life! Union through individuation, individuation through union!” NepSock gathered regularly for almost three years until it dissolved the evening of December 16, 2012.

[3] In later parts of this series we will explore what can and does work for this combination to gain perspective and insight.

[4]Transpersonal experiences may be defined as experiences in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond (trans) the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche, and cosmos. …[Resulting] transpersonal disciplines [of study and research] do not exclude or invalidate the personal realm. Rather, they set personal concerns within a larger context that acknowledges the importance of both personal and transpersonal experiences. Indeed, one interpretation of the term transpersonal is that the transcendent is expressed through (trans) the personal” (pp. 3 – 4, Paths Beyond Ego: The transpersonal vision, Eds. Roger Walsh and Frances Vaughan). Stanislav Grof elaborates, “Experiences that originate on [the transpersonal] level involve transcendence of our usual boundaries (our body and ego) and of the limitations of three-dimensional space and linear time that restrict our perception of the world in the ordinary state of consciousness” (p. 56, Psychology of the Future: Lessons from modern consciousness research).

3 thoughts on “Le Neptiste {1.1}

  1. Hi Erica
    I am enjoying navigating realimaginal… Last year, I had an article published in the USA’s Mountain Astrologer magazine called ‘Contemplating the 12th House: an optimist’s take on self-undoing”. Would you like to post a link to a PDF of that article as part of the resources for this site? I should add that I have five planets in the 12th house including the sun and moon.
    Best Wishes,Anne Whitaker, astrologer, Scotland.

    • Hi Anne,

      Thank you for taking the time to stop by, read and comment!

      I would love to include a link to your TMA article on the 12th House–thank you for offering it! Feel free to post here, or email me at artemisian42 at gmail dot com.

      with wild blessings,

      • Hi Erica I love the idea of wild blessings! Consider them reciprocated. I will email you the link forthwith, and return to your site for a further browse soon. I THINK I’ve done a reciprocal Follow. Thanks for that also.

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