The dreamy, watery and mystically-inclined planet Neptune has recently gone “direct”, stepping forward into its final year-or-so in the sign of Aquarius, where it has been for roughly the last 13 years. Neptune typically spends about 14 years in each sign of the zodiac as it makes its orbit around the Sun. It’s worth taking a little time right now to look at what Neptune has been up to for the last 13 years and how this has been reflected in the world. Neptune represents the collective dream of Paradise, that trouble-free place far away, “somewhere over the rainbow”, that safe harbor “only an ocean away”. If you’ve ever imagined a place “once upon a time” where unity, peace and harmony live happily ever after, you’ve glimpsed Neptune’s world.
Since we do not live in that place and can only long for it, here in the real world Neptune is connected with illusions. What is real, and what is not real? These are Neptunian questions. When Neptune is involved things are not always (or usually) what they seem, for Neptune isn’t a big fan of the “real” world where everything is separated into its own separate set of separate parts.
What happens, then, when cinematic visions of Neptune’s fantasy island are expressed through Aquarius, the sign of holistic social awareness, thinking of the group as a whole, democratic sensibility, and the reality of inter-connectedness?
To answer this, I want to look at popular culture as seen in movies, music and television, some of Neptune’s favorite vehicles of expression. See, with Neptune, the larger image (the dream) can be contained within the smaller image (the movie screen or television), reflecting back to us images and impressions that work like dreams, through the symbolic language of the soul.
I also want to start 180 degrees away from my subject, with the sign opposite Aquarius: Leo, the attention-seeking sign of the bright, shining star, the individual. If we look back to the 1920’s when Neptune was transiting Leo, Hollywood was born. Thanks to Hollywood, we could all get a glimpse of paradise by simply going to the movies. The notion of “celebrity” came to be: the idealized human “star” who could make everyone swoon and fill up with longing to be him or her... or at least touch him or her... or just watch a movie starring him or her... or even just settle for a photograph... or an autograph. The lifestyles of the rich and famous became a fixture in our culture, and glamorous Hollywood celebrities like Audrey Hepburn, Clark Gable, John Wayne and Bette Davis have hung above us ever since, like beautiful chandeliers lighting our living rooms and our lives. The biggest Hollywood stars earned a great deal of respect and became icons of their day. They represented the dignity, talent and unique, never-to-be-repeated “star quality” at the heart of every Leo.
Cut to: present time. With Neptune in Aquarius, the sign opposing Leo, we’ve seen a horse of a very different color take center stage, for the better and for the dramatically worse. In Aquarius, the whole world is indeed a stage and the star is the everyday person. Set that with the backdrop of our Hollywood tradition, and we get the present day un-glamorous, ordinary, not-necessarily-talent-filled, anything-goes landscape of “reality television”. The star has become not-a-star, for anyone can be the star while Neptune is in Aquarius. Supposedly. Remember, Neptune is connected with illusions.
To put the pieces together a little more, the sign of Aquarius is about accepting the reality that all people really are equal, despite social appearances to the contrary. Aquarius is the sign of the awareness of the reality of inter-connectivity. We are inter-connected whether we know it or not, and Aquarius is about knowing it—the butterfly in Brazil really does affect weather patterns in Iceland with a flap of its wing. When you can contain that level of awareness and integrate it into your actions, you are being Aquarian.
If you look around at what has taken place in the world over the last 13 years, along with the countless extraordinary technical advances that have brought the once-coveted fires of creativity down to the ground level, we have seen an explosion of ground-level talent. With the advent of HD cameras, high quality music production equipment, graphics editors, movie cameras, and movie editing software integrated into and through the personal computer, anyone with the interest and a small budget can become a movie director, a photographer, a graphic artist, a music producer. The tools that were once the realm of the "gods" of the elite and sophisticated record companies or movie studios or photography studios have, in Promethean fashion, dropped into the hands of “ordinary” everyday people.
In the last 13 years, globally, it’s like the flood-gates have opened wide, with hundreds and hundreds of talent shows cropping up everywhere. “Pop Idol” in the UK became the “American Idol” phenomenon in the United States, both of which have led to “Britain’s Got Talent”, “America’s Got Talent”, “So You Think You Can Dance”, “Dancing With the Stars” (where everyday people dance with the stars), “The X Factor”, “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?”—the same archetypal template that sits over talent searches in the country music field, the movie industry, opera, or West End Theatre (indeed, “Any Dream Will Do”). Talent is booming everywhere, in almost every creative field!
Now, this explosion of talent is paired with its share of the truly untalented and uninspired, as you know if you’ve ever watched the auditions for “American Idol”. Thousands and thousands of people audition for these shows under the illusion (Neptune) that they have talent, or that they stand a chance at fame and fortune.
This template has also taken hold in other fields as well, politics in particular. What was once the realm of the dignified leader (think: Lincoln, FDR, JFK) is now the realm of dangerously unqualified “everyday people” like Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell, who treat the political stage as if they are auditioning for a talent competition, rather than seriously considering the true gravity of the leadership roles they are seeking. When everything is considered equal, discerning true talent and qualification from illusion can be troublesome.
This is the other side of Neptune in Aquarius. It used to be that “star quality” meant quality (i.e., that the person was qualified to do what they were doing). Now, not only has celebrity and talent been drained from movies and television in countless ways, the whole idea of quality has become seriously distorted, as if having a dream is qualification enough.
Perhaps the clearest way of looking at Neptune’s illusions in the sign of Aquarius can be seen in the 2007 Pixar movie “Ratatouille”. The star of the movie is a rat, literally—a charming rat named Remy with an utterly engaging and genuine passion for cooking. More to the point, he has a talent—a genius—for cooking. Remy’s inspiration in life is Auguste Gusteau, a five-star French chef and author of the book “Anyone Can Cook”. Says Gusteau:
“Great cooking is not for the faint of heart. You must be imaginative, strong-hearted. You must try things that may not work, and you must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul. What I say is true—anyone can cook—but only the fearless can be great.”
Is this the truth? Is this illusion? I say it’s both. It resonates similarly to the famous lines, “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you...”. See, while these notions sound ideal, the key is the heart (Leo), what is truly in your heart (and I would add your soul). They key is in your soul’s inherent light, its unique gifts and talents which are usually quite different than the security-seeking dreams sought by the ego, which are modeled in “Ratatouille” by the aptly-named Ego.
“In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”
This is the truth contained within Gusteau's lines and within Neptune’s passage through the sign of Aquarius. Equality is not about everyone being able to do whatever they want to do in life. Humanity’s sense of “equal opportunity” pales in comparison to the truest equal opportunity employer there ever was: the soul. While Aquarius’ aspirations are always for a more humanitarian and democratic-style society based on principles of unity and justice, the soul is anything but democratic. The soul is rigorous and profoundly truthful. The soul carries the truth whether we care to look at it or not.
Neptune confuses this issue with blurry visions that “any dream will do,” but it’s real intent for us, in Aquarius, is to wash away this illusion and reveal for each individual that dreams are not free-for-all, that each of us has a unique genius to bring forth into the world, a genius and a talent unique to us, true to us regardless of what others may think, the genius of our own heart’s true desire—the heart’s desire that Apollo, the god of the Sun, was after when he proclaimed, “Know thyself.” How well do you know yourself? What is your genius? With Aquarius’ motto “I know,” it’s worth considering in the next year or so what is true about you. Really true. Not pretend-true, but really true.
Remy: I’m sick of pretending. I pretend to be a rat for my father. I pretend to be a human through Linguini. I pretend you exist so I have someone to talk to! You only tell me stuff I already know! I know who I am! Why do I need you to tell me? Why do I need to pretend?
Gusteau: But you don’t Remy. You never did.
If you are a butterfly affecting the whole, are you affecting it with pretend truths about yourself, or real truths? How do you know? What are you affecting it with? While Neptune is in Aquarius, there are no easy answers (Remy was shot at, almost drowned, was separated from his family, went hungry, almost got burned to a crisp in an oven, and had to spend a great deal of time living in someone's hair), but there is truth: "Food always comes to those who love to cook." What's on your plate?