Welcome to Le Neptiste, a regular 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 features 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.
This is the fourth part of our first series featuring Molly Johnstone, a 35-year-old artist working in mixed media, photography and poetry, currently living in Sedona, Arizona. You may view and purchase prints of Molly’s art on her site dissolution images.
This conversation between Erica Jones and Molly Johnstone was recorded on May 4, 2013.
We left off Part 3 discussing the planetary transits to Molly’s natal chart at the time of her initiation into artisthood and what those transits might suggest as far as cultivating “success” on the journey.
But many challenges, both personal and cultural, must be met along the way.
Let’s talk about the relationship between the Artist archetype and suffering. Do you feel connected to that sense of suffering, embracing it, perhaps even before embracing being an artist?
“Definitely,” Molly affirms. “I think it is something to become aware of.” She describes an early fascination with tragic artists as her quest to understand their patterns of creating with great intensity, yet ultimately burning too bright, losing grip and destroying their lives. She understood this as a failure to consistently channel their suffering through their art. During her own serious descents into suffering, Molly says, “I would tell myself, ‘Well, I don’t understand why I can’t create. If only I could make art while I’m going through this.’”
Molly imagined that artmaking could effectively contain some of her pain and sorrow but now she sees that as an overly idealized notion, and has decided that is not her path. Shedding any romantic ideas about the importance of suffering to her artistic life, she has become more clear on how to cope with distress or adversity. She credits her evolving relationship with Saturn—the planet of boundaries, structures and limits—with bringing clarity to the process of honoring anguish in appropriate and life-affirming ways.
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Having Neptune in such close contact with your Sun and Moon—especially since Moon-Neptune can be one who is comfortable with being a martyr, with this kind of spiritual suffering—I thought it could have been something that you felt deeply. So it’s interesting to hear that you have felt allured to or wanted to understand more about artists who have gone through so much and yet produce amazing works…and yet it’s not your path.
“I think my path is to find peace and happiness in my life,” Molly asserts. “And I think with art, the angle for my life is not to create masterpieces but to transition this lifetime and to really find what happiness is.” But she adds, “It’s going to require work.” Molly has benefitted from friends offering reflections which help her identify ways that she might be perpetuating her own misery, something which—when offered cleanly—can be very beneficial to the Neptunian type. She even feels that suffering has formed a part of her identity, but believes that through awareness, she can make a choice to not identify with suffering but step outside of it, come into relationship with it and make some changes for the better. There is the possibility for her to live harmoniously with her art and with happiness.
It’s wonderful that you are able to probe into that part of yourself without judging yourself because we’re all just humans and trying to work it out the best we can.
Molly explains that she had a glimmer of this realization when she was 28, as Saturn was returning to its natal position. She noticed that most of her life, she thought that her contributions to humanity would be earth shattering and something so important. “I just felt like I had this special gift to give but I didn’t know what it was.” In the end, she realized, “if I could just find some peace and solace within me, that would be enough.” It was a breakthrough in her understanding of the spiritual path itself, and with so much of her personal identity—both Sun and Moon—submerged in Neptune, she now identifies more with being able to establish an inner calm, than with making some grand contribution to humanity.
And it’s true, even the mere notion of a Hero or Heroine on a spiritual journey can send the Neptunian into a tailspin, particularly when Neptune is in close aspect to the Sun, or one’s Sun is in the sign of Pisces. Merriam-Webster’s definitions of the hero and heroine throw up many red flags: “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability;” a person “admired for their achievements and noble qualities;” “the central figure in an event, period, or movement;” and perhaps the worst hook for Neptunian grandiosity, “an object of extreme admiration and devotion: idol.”
It’s safe to say that this tendency of the Neptunian type is exacerbated by modern day spiritual malaise. As the first footnote in the Le Neptiste series describes, the dominant scientific worldview promotes a view of the universe as an accidental collection of meaningless objects. All meaning and purpose is thought to reside within the human being, which is a recipe for psychological projection all by itself, but in the cosmos of one who is ruled by the Neptunian thirst for meaning and purpose, it is deadly. To be consigned to a meaningless life may even be worse than death. And so the Neptunian might more easily be given to an inflated sense of self, a kind of compensatory grandiosity in which they must see themselves as a Very Important Person. It tends to take a spiritual cast, per Neptune’s divine lens, but it can be an attraction to worldly glamor as well. The archetypal thirst at the bottom of it is for the experience of significance: I mean something. My life relates to some grander vision or purpose. When persons are made to manufacture their own cosmic significance, it can result in a bit of an exaggeration.
Here lies a bit of a cultural problem with the archetype of Neptune, much more than a personal problem with it. Adding fuel to the fire, the “cult of personality” of the modern world mistakes popularity for greatness, or pays attention only to great, heroic deeds. If you are not strutting across some grand stage, this narrative claims, then you are a nobody.
The truth is likely a bit closer to the ground than that. To forge an authentic relationship with the divine is beyond profound, and incredibly personal in its disclosure, even if embodying that disclosure is meant to have a social impact. But locating your unique belonging doesn’t make you literally THE center of the universe. You are a center, just like everyone else, to riff on Margaret Mead, and our greatest contribution is often a quality of being in the world, rather than a job performed. Social recognition and its conventional forms of approval may not even be a part of the package, particularly in such fraught times as ours.
Molly’s insight into her personal calling to find some solace and happiness in her own life, and to view the intrinsic value of her art as meaningful, rather than needing to be seen as some imposing or spectacular figure is a clue that she is on her way to having a real impact on the world. Not to become a cheap “consumer good” to fill a vacuum of cultural depth and meaning, but to attend to the heartstrings she came to this planet to pluck—neither a trifling nor an ungrateful request of the cosmos.
In the final installment of this series, we will touch upon the concept of “grounding” and how various art-based practices could prove useful to one who was born Neptunian or for those moving through some challenging transits from the planet of dissolution.
 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).
 It’s hard not to laugh at the idea of someone—even people who care about us—offering the Neptunian type “clean” or “clear mirroring” or reflections. So often the Neptunian stands as others’ projection screens (see endnote 3), though any one of us is susceptible to others wanting us to represent something for them, usually something painful.
 In simplest terms, “psychological projection” refers to unknowingly perceiving some part of one’s own psyche as being in other persons, events or the world around one. It is not necessarily pathological, for it is just what human beings do—the trick seems to lie in recognizing it, and “taking the projection back,” which can prove quite valuable. For example, the vegetarian who, declaring their personal commitment to allowing others their own food choices, reads a nonfiction book which depicts eating animals in a positive light, and experiences the author as defended, judgmental and preachy. Meanwhile, nearly no one else experiences the same author as preachy and uppity, even other vegetarians. In this example, the vegetarian has a self-image of acceptance of others’ food choices and is unable to accept their intense judgment of those who eat meat. However, the emotional charge of judgment is real and present for them; it must be placed somewhere if it feels foreign to its originator. And so the author is experienced as attacking. The phenomenon of projection can take many forms and not all of them simply personal. Beware though, of analyzing others’ behaviors in a simplistic fashion; identifying projection is a sticky wicket, not at all simple.
 “Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” Margaret Mead