The Book of Neptune
by Steven Forrest
Reviewed by Damian Rocks
One of the great pleasures to be had in reading an astrological book is discovering how other astrologers work. Peering “through the office door”, if you like, via the case studies of a practicing astrologer is a fascinating way to explore our craft. Stephen Forrest’s latest work on Neptune offers just that – the chance to see how a master astrologer brings together complex psycho-emotional themes in the context of real people and the “stuff” that happens in their lives. The Book of Neptune is a broad-reaching, deeply engaging study of not only the archetypal themes which Neptune represents but also the practice of astrology itself. The text is full of useful insights for both student and practitioner alike, offering practical food for thought. Taking this journey with Forrest to the outer reaches of our solar system proves both enlightening and educational.
One of the most fascinating theories Forrest puts forward is found early in the book. He argues that if we want to understand Neptune’s meaning we should do so through its form and function within the solar system – rather than simply ascribing to it qualities which are transposed from classical Greek myth. He presents a model of the solar system which makes a clear distinction between the four rocky planets which orbit the Sun (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) and the four gas giants (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.) He suggests that those objects which tend to have the most impact on our lives are those which move within the orbit of Neptune (including Pluto periodically). He points out that Neptune actually provides a clear-cut boundary around objects in our solar system. This demarcation point helps us think about those newly discovered bodies – including Pluto – which are found beyond Neptune’s orbit, as well as understand the role Neptune influence symbolizes within the structure of psyche.
Forrest draws an analogy between Neptune and a window. A window is a dualistic device which allows light into a space, as well as vision out. The window then represents a boundary between the internal and external areas of a building. Importantly, this boundary can be transgressed with vision depending on light. To see clearly out the window we need both a source of illumination and a transparent windowpane. This analogy then can be extended to Neptune’s influence. Forrest describes how the ‘window’ which is Neptune can be seen to represent both the limits of psyche or ego, and the entry point into the vast unknown. The celestial realms beyond the orbit of Neptune symbolise the most transcendental or ’divine’ aspects of creation. Wherever Neptune is found in the chart describes ways in which we may meet the ineffable, transcendental or unknown, as well as life areas in which we may need to bring greater focus in order to clearly ”see”.
The theme of Neptune as window is found throughout the book. Forrest argues that we all have an edge or boundary that separates us from “all that is”. When Neptune is prominent in the birth chart, or activated by some dynamic influence, then we are challenged to somehow extend that sense of where we end and the rest of creation begins. For some of us, this will involve “cleaning the window” – i.e. removing those distortions within our own nature which prevent us from seeing ‘out there’ with any true perspective. A healthy sense of self involves the capacity to acknowledge dimensions of experience beyond our own personal worlds, and not feel overwhelmed by the transitory or unknown. Neptune points to where we may experience a loss of our individual – even isolated – self, so that we are immersed in a greater experience of the oneness which unifies life.
Our relationship to these Neptunian realms – the oceanic sea of consciousness and energy within which we are fact immersed – depends on how well we have integrated Neptunian themes. Regardless of our personal ideologies or belief systems, we might all agree that we live in a vast and deeply mysterious cosmos. We each have a sense of where we as individuals appear to start and end. Yet just when we feel certain about our personal edge – or the clarity of our window – Neptune has a way of challenging that view. We are prompted to become more inclusive and so less isolated in our experience of reality. By releasing the misconception that we are a discrete “coincidence of time and space” we gain the lightness and clarity required to accept the eternal and fundamentally transitory nature of all that is.
In some senses, this 21st century definition of Neptune shares some of the significance usually ascribed to Saturn from the Classical worldview. Like Saturn, Neptune also governs limits, boundaries and most importantly, the edge of consciousness. Having rulership over these edges, Neptune’s influence can also trigger episodes of limitation and loss. The difference as Forrest describes it is that Neptune allows us to gain personal experience of the transcendental, eternal and timeless. When we touch these realms we are released from the limiting identification with material reality and begin to understand that life is vast, and love is ever-present. We release the fear generated by an isolated and largely arbitrary world-view to become more deeply enmeshed in the source of all creation from which in fact we initially emerged. When Neptune is prominent with the birth chart, or active by dynamic influence, we can expect episodes of heightened sensitivity, intuitive awareness and inner reflection which may in fact deepen our awareness of the true nature of the cosmos. Here the spiritual and religious meet, with Neptune offering a mystics’ view of creation which can in turn help decode some of Life’s great mysteries.
The Book of Neptune brings together many of Forrest’s ideas. He explains his thoughts on how astrology works, the nature of the planets as influences in individual lives, fresh perspectives on outer planets including celestial bodies beyond Neptune’s orbit as well as insights into dynamic astrology that can only come from years of experience. He offers a way to think about Neptune’s influence that goes beyond such simple definitions as “Neptune rules spirituality and creativity”. Structured around a series of seminars which Forrest presents as part of his training program, the book contains an abundance of useful insights. We gain access to his ideas on many topics as he speaks to those in his class. However, this does come with its own limitations. Whilst the range of ideas is broad, the style of the text is more conversational than literary. Forrest’s erudite wit comes to the fore, but perhaps at the expense of concise communication. Transcribing conversations delivered in seminar is not the same as writing in a way that speaks directly to the reader. In some ways The Book of Neptune has an idiosyncratic tone which some may find distracting.
New and experienced astrologers alike can gain much from reading The Book of Neptune. We not only find a thorough study of Neptune’s influence based on practical client work and clear analysis, but we also find a rich and varied text full of useful case studies and well-reasoned thoughts about astrology that will both challenge and sharpen the readers mind. Whilst the style of the book is anecdotal, and could perhaps benefit from tighter editorial control, the end result is well done, providing an excellent example of how and why a master astrologer thinks about their craft.
Damian Rocks MA, Adv Dip Ayurveda, Dip Astro
Damian is a professional astrologer, running a busy practice in Sydney. He is passionate about astrology, health and wellbeing.