Neptune was discovered in 1846. How have photography, movies, television and social media changed the way we see ourselves and the world since then?


Neptune was discovered at 25 degrees of Aquarius on 24 September 1846, exactly conjunct Saturn. I guess that such an elusive planet as Neptune needed the solidity of Saturn to bring it to human consciousness.

Neptune discovery, 24 September 1846,  00:15 LMT. Berlin. Germany

astrological chart for discovery of Neptune

Daguerrotype of Abraham Lincoln
Daguerrotype of Abraham Lincoln by Nicholas Shepherd, 1846

Astrologers usually look for events around the time of a planet’s discovery to get an idea of the ‘job description’ of the planet. For example, Uranus was discovered around the time of the French and American revolutions which suggests Uranus’ role as a revolutionary. The discovery of Neptune was around the time of three events: the development of the use of anaesthetics, the birth of modern spiritualism and the invention of photography with the earliest daguerrotypes. The first two we shall leave for another time. We’ve already looked at the influence of Neptune on fashion. In this piece I want to broaden things out and look at Neptune in relation to the development of media in general and their influence on human consciousness, or to put it another way, how the images we create have changed the way we see and behave. Our map for this journey is the sequence of angles that Neptune makes to the position where it was when it was discovered.


Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

So looking first at the opposition of Neptune in Leo to its natal position in Aquarius (halfway round the cycle) in 1926/27. This was around the time that the film industry became a thing. In particular when movies developed sound and the talkies were born. The most well-known of these was ‘The Jazz Singer’, released on October 6th 1927.

While photography reflected our physical appearance and how we dress, the movies held up a mirror to how we behave and with the introduction of sound how we speak and relate to each other. Their effect was on the ‘Hollywoodization’ of everything from childhood to romance, from heroism to history. The images were moving and speaking. We could form relationships with them. We projected ourselves into them. We could identify with them, worship them or fall in love with them. While they were illusions, they were also idealized versions of ourselves.

At the same time television was born with the first public demonstration to members of the Royal Institution by John Logie Baird in his London laboratory on 26 January 1926. Followed by the demonstration long distance transmission of television pictures over telephone lines from London to Glasgow (438 miles) and then in 1928, the successful transmission of television pictures across the Atlantic.


Waning Trine

Audience at the Micky Mouse club
The Micky Mouse Club

But it wasn’t until the early 1950’s with Neptune in Libra in a waning trine to its natal position in Aquarius (two thirds of the way around its cycle) that television became the dominant medium. In fact this period, in particular 1954/55 was known as ‘The Golden Age of Television’. In the United States it was a time of new formats with ‘spectaculars’, magazine programs and youth-oriented shows such as The Mickey Mouse Club. In the UK this period was marked by the televising of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953, and the beginning of commercial television.

While movies live on the big screen, television brings movies into the home and its characters become part of the family. But these are still characters created by corporations with massive budgets, made by ‘them’ for ‘us’. Them being teams of script writers, designers, special effects experts and so on with finance arranged by producers and with actors directed by directors.


The square from Scorpio

Cover of Oz magazine. With the Mona Lisa
Cover of Oz magazine from the sixties

The next major aspect of Neptune to its natal position was in 1968 with the square from Scorpio to Aquarius (three quarters of the way round its cycle). True to the nature of Scorpio, this was associated with the fragmentation of mass audiences as the counterculture grew and blossomed. Finding no place for their images on mainstream media, movements such as the women’s movement, gay liberation, the green movement and eastern spirituality had to create their own channels to communicate their images and ideas.


The Return and what’s next …

Then moving on to 2009-2010, 163 years since its discovery Neptune returns to its natal position in Aquarius. This complete cycle of Neptune has taken us from photography to movies, to television, up to the introduction and rapid growth of social media. These include Facebook in 2004, Twitter in 2006, Instagram in 2010 and Pinterest in 2010.

Food displayed artistically on a plate
Nouvelle Cuisine

We are no longer dependent on corporations with huge budgets to produce and disseminate images. Anyone with a smart phone and an editing app can produce at home and distribute worldwide with little or no editorial control. We are simultaneously the producer and the consumer, the show and the audience. We have arrived at a world of images that we create for ourselves.

Now everything in our world has to be ‘Instagram ready’. Food is prepared not to taste good, provide nutrition and satisfy hunger but to look good in a photograph. Similarly for human appearance. You have to look good for the dating apps. Everyone will judge you for how you look not for who you are, so you have to be perfect. Neptune’s fantastic reality has taken over.

Where do we go from here? Will the coming Neptune cycle be shaped with Artificial Intelligence? Or holograms? Or virtual reality? Or will our lives be dominated by electronic surveillance? Or with some technology yet to be born?

Look out for the waxing square of Neptune to its natal position in 2049-51 and the next opposition in 2090-91.

See you there?

Ben Belinsky

May 2024

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