Welcome to In The Sky, a recurring feature of Real Imaginal online magazine, dedicated to the re-enchantment of Neptune.
Using the methodology of archetypal astrology which, based on empirical research, allows a 10-degree orb of influence for this particular world transit, the planets Saturn and Neptune began having a difficult conversation in November 1, 2014 which will run through September 2017.
Saturn square Neptune
When SATURN is at 24° 48” Scorpio — 22° 11” Sagittarius
Generally speaking, the closer the aspect is to exact, the greater the intensity of the associated archetypal qualities, whether positive or negative.
Of all the many seemingly contradictory significations of the Saturn-Neptune combination—such as the onset of mental illness as well as psychological healing; clarified perception as well as perception distorted by fear; the negation of one’s ideals as well as the realization of one’s ideals; skepticism of the literal dimensions of existence as well as skepticism of the metaphorical dimensions of existence—one of the more problematic contours of this archetypal combination is its capacity to see through surface appearances to what has been hidden, unspoken, or perhaps covered over by naïve assumptions.
Hidden dimensions of consciousness are frequently referred to in psychological terms as “the shadow.” The concept of the shadow points towards that which is true about oneself, but which is utterly severed from conscious awareness. Not only do individuals possess a “shadow” or harbor unconscious truths, but so do institutions, traditions, worldviews, entire societies and civilizations. It might seem like a simple matter to unveil the hidden, point a finger at what was previously unmentionable and start the process of integrating these new dimensions of oneself or of the collective. But the archetype of Saturn brings the experience of “problems” or the problematic. And as straightforward as the reality Saturn presents seems to be, Saturn carries its own forms of deception.
Let’s take a look at part of the problematic side of noticing shadow or seeing through illusions, from the point of view of the Neptunian or Piscean person—although many different people may resonate with this experience and take something useful from this exploration.
One variation of the Neptunian thrives in a world of idealistic perfection, where people and institutions are supposed to be all-nourishing and infallible. This particular expression of Neptune will frequently emerge in the patterning of personal archetypes recognizable as the Escapist, and the Eternal Boy (Puer) or Eternal Girl (Puella), among others.
The Escapist will go to great lengths to distract us from anything which contradicts a story that everything is fine and dandy; its main technique is avoidance. The Puella/Puer functions similarly, by flying so high over life that details become indistinct or blurry. The Puer/Puella endlessly engages in one amazing adventure after another, pursuing every shiny, new thing with little sense of direction, and is unable to sit and focus on problems or tasks for any length of time. These archetypal patterns are very familiar to many in industrialized societies, and are well-fed by a steady diet of advertising, cultural beliefs that “you can be anything you want to be” and a mental health culture which is largely focused on making “happy people” rather than “human people” with access to a full range of emotional experience.
Saturn-Neptune periods correlate to challenging times for the Escapists and Puellas/Puers in and amongst us. Since it is a world transit, it is true for everyone that the current Saturn-Neptune alignment can show up as the very bitter taste of having one’s illusions popped. Reality intrudes into The Good Fantasy, and suddenly the political game is recognized as corrupt. One’s life partner is not only no longer the perfect match you thought them to be, they are suddenly felt to be downright poisonous to your well-being! Your allegiance to a set of ideals and moral principles comes into question, as you wonder about their validity and usefulness in such a corrupt and imperfect world. The sense of safety provided by the apparent illusion of a stable, placid and generally benevolent world dissolves.
And for the Neptunian or Piscean (or anyone) who prefers to perceive the world as all-nourishing and without flaw, the bitter taste of a destroyed illusion can be overwhelming. The plunge into the pit of disappointment can seem like a never-ending freefall, a pit without a bottom. And indeed, that can be the case! For true to the archetype of the Escapist, or the Puer/Puella, becoming attached to that bitter taste and then taking THAT to be “reality” is a very clever strategy of the Escapist. It is yet another form of avoidance which can prevent a person from growing and moving into an enlarged understanding of life and its complexity. Because the bitter taste of seeing through an illusion is not reality at all, but in fact just the experience of what isn’t real. Saturn correlates to the “bitterness” of the experience, but if that were held as the ultimate reality, it would represent the negation or the total destruction of one’s ideals, rather than a maturation of them.
Distinct from clinging to the bitter taste of disillusionment as “the new reality to adjust to,” actually remaining present to that bitterness long enough for it to transform your understanding or your stance is the critical move. It is how to make meaning out of what could otherwise become an irreconcilable despair. It can be obvious that what you thought about your reality or your situation cannot contain this new information. But it takes time and effort and sustained reflection to generate a new context for that information. This is how Saturn—time, effort, critical distance—can enter into the process in a helpful way, rather than showing up as a punishing ordeal of hanging onto what is no longer real, be that in an Escapist form of bitterness or denial.
 The depth ecopsychologist Bill Plotkin makes a helpful distinction when he says that “the Shadow is not what we know about ourselves and don’t like (or like to keep hidden) but rather what we don’t know about ourselves and, if accused of it, would adamantly and sincerely deny” (pp. 19-20, Wild Mind).
 These defense mechanisms are actually important to psychic integrity in the sense that they helped us to psychologically and sometimes physically survive very difficult situations. It is important to recognize that such strategies developed in childhood, when we were completely dependent upon others for our physical survival and safety, and so were necessary and helpful in their way. The Escapist or the Puer/Puella begin to show up (to us) as problematic—just as the planet of aging, Saturn, would have it—as we are called to mature.