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Heaven or Hell?...

   Uranus and Neptune tell the difference between the gates to heavenly intoxication or the nightmares of drug madness...

...Neptune's Pharmacopeia

By John Townley

Some of the great blessings associated with Neptune, and also among its curses, since it was officially discovered in 1849, have been the mysteries of pharmacopeia. The planet is closely linked with the indefinable chemistry of life that both allows us to explore and play with our fundamental biological processes and in the process better understand them or completely screw ourselves up trying.

It is often said that the principles of the outer planets came most strongly into human awareness starting around the year of  their discoveries: Uranus (1786) for social and technological revolution, Neptune (1846) for drugs and modern mysticism, Pluto (1930) for mass movements, faceless war and totalitarianism, for three brief takes. Those qualities were around (and assigned to other planets), but certainly the outer three crystallized our modern views of them. And Neptune, true to its nature, is the hardest one to pin down, being quintessentially elusive, even down to when the planet was actually discovered, which was spotted several times earlier (1612-13, 1795, 1830) but not identified until Le Verrier planted it firmly on the accepted sky map in 1846.

Being a generationally borderline Boomer (1945), I had the privilege of maturing along with two major generational sets of natal Neptune aspects, specifically the Neptune trine with Uranus and the Neptune square with Uranus, which very much characterized the early and late post-WWII generations, as unalike as oil and water. Both have Neptune in Libra, but as Uranus proceeds at just twice Neptune’s speed, each has a different Uranus-Neptune relationship. Those born late in WWII (from 1943-on) and early post-War roughly have the trine, while those born in the mid-1950s have the square as Neptune finished with Libra and entered Scorpio.

Both together broadly make up the “Pluto in Leo” generation 1940-1956, often said to define the social changes that made the 1960s so pivotally interesting culturally, but the subsets by Uranus-Neptune aspect do much to tell how and why the visionary revolutions of the ‘60s both succeeded and failed. The essence of the period was unstoppable (Pluto) revolutionary (Uranus) spiritual (Neptune) change, in music, religion, philosophy, and politics, a great deal of it rooted in drug culture and the revelations that came when the Boomers turned on, tuned in, and then either experienced bliss or a psychological train wreck. The simple timeline tells you which came first – the bliss – and then the general train wreck that followed it. And a look at the players will tell you that those born with the Neptune-Uranus trine enthusiastically discovered mind-altering drugs and their younger siblings took what seemed like a good thing at the time and showed just how badly it could be handled, turning the corner from flower children of Sgt. Pepper and the 1968 Year of Love to swarms of cocaine-blasted addicts on the mean streets of the mid-1970s.

A bad view of Uranus and Neptune screwed up drugs and sex for a whole generation, twice...

That may sound like sour grapes from someone from the trine division, but it’s not. It’s not that we discovered ambrosia and our kid brothers and sisters screwed it all up (well, sometimes that was true), as it’s much more complicated than that. Indeed, it’s the younger Boomers that might blame us for selling them a bill of goods that backfired on them, a surprise to everyone. Sadly, it’s another repeat of a generational Uranus-Neptune shift that happened before, with similar results. 

The benefits and problems of modern drug usage only came into being around when Neptune was discovered. Drugs of one sort or another have been in use for millennia, but the ability to synthesize and concentrate them to levels of killer effectiveness only developed in the mid-nineteenth century. Before then, drugs were taken in their more dilute natural form and tended to be both less effective and less dangerous. The first widespread popularity of the newly-concentrated drugs cocaine and heroin appeared in the 1870s, as the first generation born with Uranus sextile Neptune reached their twenties. From Freud on down, cocaine was greeted as a wonder drug to be shot, sniffed, and even put in soft drinks, while heroin was touted as a non-addictive cure-all substitute for morphine. For the Uranus sextile Neptune generation, they were all the rage, as drugs would again to be to the pre-and-early boomers of the twentieth century. Then, as the next generation of Uranus square Neptune arrived on the grownup scene, the first signs of drug addiction arose in a veritable flood, and by the early twentieth century, most refined “hard” drugs were banned. That set the stage for the next set of developments, when sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll would once again seduce, exalt, and sometimes destroy the best and brightest of tangent generations.

Neptunes horses, with or without Uranus, charge on for another round, more generations, more changes.

Curiously, the opening up of sexuality in nineteenth and twentieth century Western (at least) culture follows a parallel and interconnected path.  The same generations that freely played with newly-found sexual freedom with impunity did so with drugs as well, and the ones that followed wound up paying the price in unwanted or unexpected disease and resulting repression from within and without. The freethinking, commune-building, free-sex movements of the mid-to-late nineteenth century gave way to a new “family values” prudery and eventually prohibition. In both cases, the realms of fantasy and self-indulgence first fitted experimental reality hand in glove but then wound up begetting wrecks on the rocks of unintended excess or simply bad historical luck (as with AIDS). 

Now that Uranus and Neptune have moved on past their conjunction (in the early 1990s), and Generations X, Y, and beyond have supplanted the Boomers, a more balanced understanding of sex, drugs, and their potentials is coming into focus, though the U.S. remains a bastion of official leftover repression mainly for reasons of political culture wars. But as the children born under these aspects come to maturity, we may see a wiser, if younger, point of view come to power. Of course, as the twenty-first century proceeds, the square will again arrive, this time preceding the trine, and it will all change once more as the generational tides of inner experience find new aspects of old providers to build their alternating dreams and nightmares, as the biochemical matrix that our personalities dwell in necessarily continues to color our spiritual and scientific viewpoints...

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