There are many quadrature aspects — square, opposition, conjunction — of Saturn and Neptune: they happen about once a decade. (Disclosure: The author has Saturn and Neptune configured to a Personal Point.) Saturn represents discipline, discrimination, restriction; it has a bad reputation but without Saturn things would go wildly out of control. Neptune represents spirit, imagination, unconscious drives, illusion, deception. Neptune can be a very transcendent force, but unfortunately many people have a difficulty recognizing it (cf. mental illness) and there seems to be even more difficulty with the forces represented by Neptune when people act as a mass.
Richard Tarnas talks about this combinations representing confusion, doubt, alienation, uncertainty, disenchantment, disillusion, sorrow, and conciliation. Saturn allows you to see through the illusions that Neptune brings, though that is not always comfortable. Sometimes we are happier with our illusions and dreams and do not want to awaken from them and have to face reality. But sometimes we need to face reality to grow.
Saturn and Neptune combinations are difficult to describe accurately — the hard nosed reality of Saturn versus the numinous quality of Neptune. Ebertin gives the principle for this combination as “suffering, renunciation, asceticism”. I think it will be more useful to look at examples of this pair of planets from history.
There was a Saturn-Neptune conjunction in the closing years of the Korean War. The Korean War had started out with high hopes among the Americans and their allies, but as it dragged on with no progress but increasing causalities, the war became less and less popular and people became disillusioned (a Saturn-Neptune word). It often happens that after the reality of any war seeps into people’s consciousness, the patriotic and jingoistic feelings they had at the beginning tend to fade. For the Korean War this loss of illusion is illustrated by the movie and later television show MASH.
The closing square of those two planet directly preceding the conjunction of the Korean War was in 1944-45 and indicates the feeling of dread among, most especially the Germans and the Japanese, when people saw that the war started with such high hopes for ruling the word end in such misery. And life in the German and Japanese homelands was not very nice after the Allied bombings of such places as Dresden and Tokyo. For the Allies, even though the end of the war in Europe was clear after D-Day (June 6, 1944) there was still much fighting to do. In the Pacific theater, there were events like the Bataan Death March and the more recent Battle of Iwo Jima that were ominous suggestions that the Pacific war would last for a long while, even though Japan’s desire for surrender was known to high officials.
The opposition of Saturn and Neptune preceding that was 1936-37. This is often called the “Roosevelt Depression”. After his re-election with a huge majority, FDR felt that the economy was improving so well that he could cease so much government interference in the economy. He was wrong, and the employment rate rose again. The country did not really get out of the Depression until spending for the Second World War started up. The optimism engendered by the New Deal was tarnished when unemployment increased.
The square before that was in 1926. In the United States this was the year of the Scopes trial, celebrated in the play and movie Inherit the Wind. It represented the outcome of the conflict between the forces of modernism represented by Darwin and his theory of evolution, and the fundamentalist who took the Bible literally. In that case the illusions and beliefs of the fundamentalist had came up against the reality of the modern world, and lost. But here we are now 90 years later and it appears that the forces arrayed against modernism are stronger that ever.
The conjunction before that was in 1917. The war people were being disillusioned with was the First World War (“The War To End All Wars”), which was much bloodier than anyone could have imagined before, and lasted much longer than many had thought. World War I was the first truly industrial war, with poison gas, machine guns, tanks, and airplanes. In some battles only a few feet of territory were captured in a day. The whole generation of people, whether or not they fought in the war , were disillusioned. The escape of the Twenties was one result of a retreat from that war.
The closing square before this was in 1909. One of the events of that year, which takes on much more importance in hindsight, is referred to in a recent book called The Last Great Walk by Wayne Curtis. Though it is difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend now that once, a century ago, many people use to walk for recreation and competition. In 1909 an American Edward Weston (not the photographer) walked from New York to San Francisco and it was covered by the news media. This turned out to be the last time such a walk was attempted because the automobile was taking over the country for transportation and even recreation. This would have many unintended consequences that could not be guessed of at that time, a little over 100 years ago. As a result of the automobile’s increasing dominance of the world, the atmosphere has filled up with car exhaust resulting in the climate change that is becoming apparent now. People’s lack of exercise due to being able to drive anywhere has resulted in increased obesity and many physical diseases that were relatively unknown at the time, as well as many traffic accidents that kill tens of thousands of people per year and result in injuries ranging from minor to crippling to many more people. And the layout and design of cities, and the birth of suburbs and bedroom communities, have been altered the world in a way that is difficult to erase.
The opposition before that took place at the turn of the century. This time was especially potent as discussed previously and we can see from our perspective that it was truly the death of the old society that had existed up to the Twentieth Century, and Modernism was being born. But on a more particular level, consider the Dreyfus Affair in France. A member of the French military had been sentenced for treason in the early part of the last decade of the Nineteenth Century. Many, perhaps most, at least in France, had initially accepted the verdict. But as time went on more doubts arose, and the actual person who had committed the treason, a relative of Hungarian royalty, was found. Dreyfus had been brought back from the French penal colony on Devil’s Island off the coast of South America for a second trial in 1899. While he was expected to be freed, the second trial also found him guilty. The uproar of such a miscarriage of justice forced the government of France to pardon him, and Dreyfus was convinced to accepted the pardon. What has seemed like a good idea at the beginning of the decade turned out to be a large stain on France.
The opposition of Saturn and Neptune before that was 1862-63. This was the Civil War in America, whose disillusion colored the next forty years. Now that we are celebrating the 150th anniversary no one remembers just how bloody were the battles and how many people of the country were affected. This was by far the biggest war ever fought on US soil. One book that tries to capture the horror of the Civil War is This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust.
Moving forward after the Korean War, the opening square after that war was 1963. The young president of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was killed by assassination. Many people at the time though this was the end of innocence of America, that the Dream of Camelot was gone. Even now there is much nostalgia for this time and Kennedy is considered a great peace maker, even though during his term the world came closer to a nuclear war than any time before or since, though currently we are trying our best to gin up another war with a nuclear power, under a President who has been compared to Kennedy.
The following opposition was in 1970-71. The Vietnam War had gone on for at least ten years, increasingly bloody, with little possibility of victory just around the corner, even though many government officials always saw a light at the end of the tunnel. There was increasing dissent in the United States, and things were occasionally turning violent. It was also the end of that mythical time called “The Sixties” — a killing at the rock concert at the Altamont Speedway in California the previous year was regarded as the end. Reality was back.
The square after that was in 1979-80. This was near the end of the Carter presidency in the United States, and people were just plain disillusioned. The hostages from the American embassy in Tehran had been captured by Iranian militants and American were increasingly unhappy with the Revolutionary government in Iran, unaware that the deposed Shah of Iran had been put in place by the CIA over 35 years previously. There was increasing anger towards Iran — the slogan “Nuke Iran” was appearing as graffiti in many places. An attempted rescue of the hostages had gone very bad. Carter delivered his famous “Maliase” speech which portended our current crises, but at that time only depressed people further. Also, an urge for “market solutions” was welling up from the populace, having been propagandize by corporations following the Powell Doctrine, put in place in the early part of the decade by Lewis Powell, who was on the Supreme Court at the time. This doctrine urged businesses to fight back since they were being out gunned by the forces of democracy from the Sixties.
The conjunction in 1989 will be dealt with separately. This time saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and of many Communist countries such as Poland. The Communist experiment, which had first successfully taken control of a government 60 years previously was coming apart at the seams.
The square after this was in 1998-99. This was the closing years of the Clinton Presidency and saw the impeachment of that President. The long impeachment of the President went on for months and alternatively filled the news cycle and disgusted much of the American public. By the end of the impeachment any remaining glow of the Clinton Presidency was gone, and the boom of the Clinton years, due to the “”dot.com” bubble that had expanded after the World Wide Web and the public awareness of the Internet, which had existed for 30 years by that point, was about to break. As is typical in modern times, by the last two years of a two term Presidency, everyone was ready for something else.
Finally the opposition after that was in 2006-07. The War in Iraq had been going on for a few years, and not only were people disillusioned with that war, in America and abroad, but Americans were also disillusioned with the whole Bush presidency. There was talk about impeaching him. This call was not taken up by the “loyal opposition”, which did not want to rock the ship of state but to only assume the reins of power. There was also a large housing boom, where many, many people were getting into the market, and very few warned that this would end badly.