Dear Friend and Reader:
When Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the Tibetan buddhist master, spoke at the Woodstock Community Center many years ago, he told his audience, “There are two kinds of love: grandmother love, and the truth.”
I offer this idea for your consideration now, as Jupiter and Neptune — the classical and modern planetary rulers of Pisces — make their conjunction in their sign. This particular combination will not return until 2188, taking place in the very last degree of Pisces an entire Neptune cycle from now. I wonder what we will have learned by then.
I wonder what we will care about.
While Jupiter and Neptune are some of the most creative and spiritually oriented planets of the lot, Jupiter is also associated with excess, and Neptune is also associated with deception, delusion and denial. Neptune is subtle, and it’s also easily corrupted. Jupiter will magnify whatever that is, though it also provides the potential for something substantial to happen: a real conversation about something, for example.
To harness the creative side of these planets (and of Pisces) takes discipline — and sincerity. This suggests that no matter what your state of abundance, our potential or your talent, the work of self-development must be done every day. It is much easier to live in the Neighborhood of Make Believe.
Time For a Reality Check
The Pisces energy field (that’s what a ‘sign’ is) is amplifying and reverberating everything its ruling planets are about, whether real or pretend. Though there are many sides to every aspect, Jupiter meeting up with Neptune would seem to be a wholly positive event. It looks like a welcome turning point in a world gone mad, where most people are pretending everything is normal.
In my experience, few people what happens during the more creative and constructive aspects. Happiness does not make the news; misery does, as long as it’s not too personal. We remember when Saturn and Pluto collide (most recently, late summer 2001, or early winter 2020). Those aspects crash into the living room. They tend to prove and validate their own existence, in a world too-often driven by fear.
I would love to write to you about why it’s so helpful to make music and art, and to get together with other people who are doing so. I’ll save some of that for tomorrow night’s Planet Waves FM. For now, let’s take on the slippery part of the equation.
The presence of Neptune in any aspect pattern is an indicator to question the difference between perception and reality. That adorable little trident says, “It’s time for a reality check — if you can stand it.” For those who cannot, we certainly have plenty of options open. And with Neptune, the checking of reality must involve one’s commitment to honesty.
Rinpoche’s analysis — there is grandmother love, and the truth — is not designed to be cruel, but rather to cast the matter in such a way that we can use contrast, an important teaching tool, to observe our differing ideas of love.
Grandmother love is the unconditional positive regard she feels for a grandchild. He might rob a bank, take out a few customers, injure a teller and a guard, and then get arrested. When the newspaper calls grandma for a comment, she will say, “He’s such a nice boy.” (This is called the “grandmother quote.” It is a real thing in journalism.)
I reckon we feel this kind of love for our animal friends more than for other people. Or perhaps that is the opportunity they present to us. Most people place all kinds of conditions on love, while usually claiming that those conditions don’t exist.
What You See When You Really Look
Then there is the truth: not as a philosophical ideal, personal preference or the ultimate answer, but rather, what is so: What you see when you really look. What the facts add up to when you evaluate them honestly. What you understand when you let go of denial. What you actually want, what you’ve really done, and now you really feel.
Trungpa is implying is that anything other than these two states of being is something other than love. He is saying that where there is love between equal adults, there must be a commitment to truth. He was a tantric master.
Another one of those out-there tantric teachers wrote about this in the context of relationships: “The discipline is to learn to live uncompromisingly in your truth and to love the other without qualification. No easy task, but there is no higher. What you are loving together is truth: Everything real has to be shared; everything else has to be dismantled.
“Here is a simple test to see where you are in this matter of relating. Write down all the things you have not shared with your partner. Contemplate this list, and there you will see the limits you place on the relationship, the degree of your commitment to the way of the lover.”
And where there is going to be unconditional positive regard, the truth, the actual reality of our lives, is a great place to bring it: but it’s not easy. It’s a real matter of spiritual growth, awakening and cultivating forgiveness.
What We Mean When We Say Love
I get that this is a high standard. In our time, we expect to be deceived. In honor of this, many give themselves license to tell a wide diversity of lies. This is often seen as a necessity in a world where it seems everyone else is doing it. (But everyone is not doing it — the question is whether you care to know the honest people, and how you treat them.)
Even the seemingly small lies can add up to a life that feels like fraud. In a way, deception is society’s most profitable commodity. It should be converted into a security and traded on the stock exchange, like bad mortgages — that’s what it is.
Yet deception comes at a cost. My version of Rinpoche’s teaching is that when we say love and really mean it, we mean trust. There can only be trust when there is mutual commitment to truth. And that is in short supply in a world where everyone is now expected to be their own publicist, and where nearly everything you read is a press release.
Trust, truth, and love — they all require subtle understanding, not sheer black vs. white thinking; not the unresolved muddle of the gray area. And they require self-awareness and a commitment to growth. That, in turn, means inner awareness.
I maintain that the single most critical spiritual issue of our times involves the impact of digital technology on our personal lives and on society. Digital has become the new god: the source of everything, and the thing we must appease. It has also taken us out of ourselves and turned us into members of tribes, shorn of true identity.
There is a Pisces aspect to this: the digital environment, and artificial “intelligence,” and virtual and enhanced “reality,” are all part of the grand illusion and are being fed by Neptune in Pisces.
Yet there is a critical distinction: true growth and self-awareness can never be forced. They are voluntary, which includes people thinking they can skip them over for an entire lifetime. Digital technology is forced onto us. It is always compulsory: every form of upgrade that or your whole life is made into a mess.
The cell phone is the new citizenship. In the U.S., citizenship used to be the driver’s license and a car, but this has been obviated by thinking you cannot do anything or go anywhere without a phone. That is a form of slavery — and it is on the rise.
Digital is Not Spiritual
Digital advances falsely take the place of spiritual. One example for this is seeking therapy on Twitter, by accusing someone of something publicly. Then there can be a big explosion, much damage is done, and nobody is the better for it.
In a disembodied world, people seek conflict violence as a means of getting to know themselves better.
Constant upgrading and keeping pace with technology has become a substitute for actually working on yourself. The endless cultivation of one’s image is used as a stand-in for the growth of one’s soul.
The internet, once a bastion of truth, has largely become an instrument of terrorism: a means of attack, and a way of harming people. It is a very difficult place to clean up one’s reputation after a false accusation. Businesses and careers can be destroyed in an hour. Truth is the first enemy of the information war we are all in. And this has spilled over into the physical world, where people are terrified to say anything that might possibly be construed as controversial.
There is no easy answer for how to address this. However, that answer is not more attack. You could say the answer is respect, though snipers don’t have any — their only intent is to shoot their target.
Jupiter conjunct Neptune is one more reminder of the delicate edge we are walking along. This is about all of society. It is also about who and what you think you are.
Whatever everyone else may be doing, the decisions about the purpose of your life and the meaning of your existence are yours to make. Yes, there is resistance. Yes, there is the constant bomb threat against those who might dare to be sincere. No matter what you think someone else “makes” you say, do or believe, it’s still on your karma: sooner or later, you will personally experience the results of your actions and your decisions.
This was never an especially popular realization. Yet to you who say you want to love and be loved, popularity is not your concern. Being real is — and perhaps learning from those who dare to even try. It’s not easy, but who knows: it may be worth it.