As you know, the elements occupy a very important place within astrology as well as in many traditional medical systems, both Eastern and Western. Each interpreter approaches the subject a little differently but it is helpful sometimes to think in terms of similarities and differences. If you look at a horoscope and see the twelve signs, there are three for each of the four elements but the "oppositions" involve signs of the same polarity, i.e. both signs are masculine or both are feminine; the differences are actually stronger with the squares than the oppositions. My space physicist father took up astrology late in life but what he had been calling gravitational vectoring is what astrologers call "aspects" or relationships between planets. Of these, the square is the most challenging. It is with the square that the polarities are opposite, i.e. Mars-ruled Aries is square Moon-ruled Cancer so we have fire and water which are energetically much more perfect opposites than Aries and Libra or Cancer and Capricorn.
In the past, I have tried to explain how the conservative properties of water affect memory and longevity. Water is used to nurture, protect, and restore. It puts great emphasis on life, tradition, and customs. Because of these interests, it has a sense of belonging based on identification with family, clan, tribe, or anything else where there is a sense of membership with a particular group. Physiologically, water is both moist and viscous, providing the sheathing for the nerves, lubrication for the joints, and fluids in which cells are bathed. Its temperament is calm, possessive, and sometimes regressive because it has more affinity for the known than the unknown.
Fire is temperamentally opposite, it is visionary and hence more interested in the future and what might be than the past and what has been. Of course, this linear concept of time only works in the third dimension because, as I occasionally remind you, time is measured by astronomical movements that occur in the manifest realm. The moment one's center of attention is no longer "here", all is potentially One and Time also ceases to exist. Everything is in a perpetual state of being; i.e., nothing is becoming because everything simply "is". Likewise, in the frictionless dimensions, polarity does not exist. The tug between this and that or past and present is therefore just one of the many dramas of "this" reality, but many relationships are in trouble over such tugs because while watery individuals seem to dwell in the past, fiery ones get bored by the absence of newness, innovation, and adventure. Fire's lack of attention is translated by water as disinterest and because water is subjective, the validation sought is not felt. Fire is more or less oblivious to how it is perceived by others because it is so focused on its own "stuff" that it cannot understand how it is viewed by others. I say this with the greatest tenderness since I am myself very fiery but I had to learn to ask airy people for input since I came to realize that it is not actually normal to be this oblivious. Air types possess the missing skills in abundance so cultivating friends who are more airy contributes to balance and often yields useful feedback that ultimately improves functionality in a world that is not particularly functional.
The way fire is supposed to work is that intuition transcends the rational and concrete mind and affords glimpses into two very important arenas. These are not actually difficult to explain: first the simple part of fire.
The warrior must of course be prepared to defend himself but this trait is both physical and psychological. If fire is attacked — and this is true of everyone's fire, not just those with constitutions where fire predominates — it must decide, usually instantly, whether to fight back or avoid conflict. A rational person would assess the risks and make the decision based on the prospect of getting away from the danger with the heart still beating. Fire is not, however, rational; it is, as I said, intuitive. Worse, it is not even assessing on the basis of probable outcome but on the basis of whether or not the issue itself is worth defending. Unless and until people understand this about fire, they will misjudge the motivations of those who are fiery and also fail to see that self defense is a thin veneer masking two far more important matters: idealism and the ability to sacrifice. Many fiery actions are in fact predicated on idealism that prompts a passionate person to risk his all for something he values more than life itself. As I said, this is not practical, but practicality is the domain of the earth element and there is an immense shadowy relationship between fire and earth that must be navigated with great skill.
Let's back up and go through a different door to this dilemma.
If there is an injustice, the natural instinct of fire is to try to correct it through some sort of action. Throughout history, people have drawn swords and tried to defend their honor or the honor of someone else with a duel. Obviously, this response is now more or less obsolete but the alternatives to throwing a glove on the ground take a lot of time and the processes are exhausting since fire has sprint energy, not stamina. Very little true injustice is corrected by duking it out; but, for fire, rising to the challenge is more important than superficial peace. If fire is suppressed, change will not occur and the imperfections of the present will not be addressed. This is why the impulses that flash on fiery temperaments are important and together they arouse enough energy to correct problems, problems that often call for sacrifices on the parts of those who care enough to want to make difference.
The shadow game is however archetypal. Earth uses isms to manipulate fire and rev up the passion to the point that "others" will make sacrifices. This is what we see with wars, whether for oil or economic injustices. Give just enough publicity to a problem, and those who are easily galvanized will volunteer to solve a problem that may not be what it seems. Using 911 to promote war or using "too big to fail" to promote sacrifices on the part of the middle class are ploys concocted by earth to manipulate fire. If they are not actually solutions to problems, they are carefully planned hoaxes to draw people into activities they would not accept if the facts were better understood.
That is but one shadow game.
In any event, the fiery response is always to a catalyst of some type and everyone experiences such catalysts but may or may not respond depending on the temperament and a number of other factors. For example, when the news of 911 was aired, my first reaction was shock and then incredulity, i.e., do not believe anything from this point on because skepticism, an earth trait, superimposed itself on fire. The moment this happens, fire ceases to be manipulated. It can arise but it will not go the direction calculated by the manipulators because it is not "raw" reaction but processed via a combination of perceptual mechanisms that result in a different set of reactions than those contemplated.
The same goes with the too big to fail economic actions. In a completely isolated theatre, the drama of a company being in financial trouble is just a drama, a crisis. In the aftermath of the epoch of mergers and acquisitions, it looks completely different: opportunities to pick up several thousand new branches for a penny on the dollar. In sum, all we are really seeing is piranha politics. This is a very simple variation of the same game played by Julius Caesar and countless others throughout time. Create a victim and then buy him out on the cheap. Caesar was more blatant. He used arson and withheld the fire brigades until deeds to property had been transferred. The gaming table is just bigger and more complicated but it is still the same game. Likewise, people are drawn into the game by promises, such as "this is necessary to protect your life style" or something else that people will swallow and . . . therefore support by making sacrifices.
This is not actually how fire is supposed to function. It is supposed to transcend the muckety muck and connect intuitively, not via the boob tube. To the extent that the sources of influence are all mundane, fire cannot jump the boundaries of conventional consciousness enough to see the future. For fire and those who depend on it, this is tragic.
This brings me to how new ideas are seeded on the Earth at this time in our history. As we know, the Earth has been in existence for a long time already but our own written history is limited to the last few thousand years even though there is archaeological evidence of earlier civilizations. From what we can see, there is nothing like steady progress in the direction of greater and greater unfoldment of human potential. Moreover, we see no evidence that golden ages occur simultaneously in all parts of the globe. In fact, what we see is some places where life is very simple and close to nature while other pockets of civilization are engaged in various war games, financial scams, geoengineering of climate, architectural displays of prowess, and scientific absurdities. You can add to this that while there are still cannibals in some parts of the world, there are others involved in efforts to make intergalactic travel a reality. In short, neither iron ages nor golden ages seem to be widespread at the same time. However, each of these tribes, whether cannibals or corporate piranhas, is faced with the third dimensional reality of time, meaning there is a past and the memories of this past are archived in various ways, and there is a future that, of course, everyone hopes will be better than the past . . . even if relatively few people are actively involved in assuring this will happen. To assure a better future, we would have to correct the present problems and anchor a vision of a better tomorrow, not a Microsoft tomorrow with endless things that move with push buttons or laser-like wireless signals but a tomorrow in which social injustice and environmental injustice no longer exist and all people have the opportunity to unfold their true selves. This idea is in and of itself visionary so first the idea has to "appear" and this can seem to occur out of nowhere. Then, the idea has to be articulated, demonstrated, and actualized. Those are processes that ensue from the original inspiration.
This inspiration can come mystically, via Neptune, or catalytically via Mars, i.e., as a reaction to something that rocks the karmic boat. Inspiration does not really come in other ways. Obviously, there are some nice planets, like Venus and Jupiter and even Uranus, but they do not have the same ability to reveal the high road. You might say that Venus wants everyone to feel comfortable and Jupiter wants everyone to feel happy and Uranus wants everyone to know the truth, but these are qualities of an inner psychospiritual nature, qualities we symbolize by reference to planets.
Once again, I am therefore underscoring that the primary difference between Mars and Neptune is the modus operandi, not the idealism. Even if in reality the actions stemming from these planetary influences are vastly different, in theory, the level of expression could be comparable.
If Mars is not functioning well, it could be due to fear of repercussions. For instance, someone may defer or permanently deny response if he or she feels the response would be unwelcome and perhaps so unwelcome that it jeopardizes the relationship or survival. This is something that I try to teach clients and students to understand in the context of fire. If fire does not engage in a discussion, it might be better to translate the behavior as "I care too much to risk your love by telling you how this feels to me". In short, walking out of the room during a discussion means one thing if the person leaving is airy and perhaps absolutely the opposite if the person is fiery. However, most likely the fire itself is not gone, just the reflex is delayed. This is also important because it means that reaction is inevitable, just delayed. Because of the way the shadow drama works, earth often feels it has successfully maneuvered fire, but when it sees evidence that the fire is starting to move and organize, it becomes paranoid because this the last refuge of mucked up earth energy.
Neptune works a little differently because Neptune has trouble differentiating between what is factual and what is pure fantasy. It actually doesn't matter because fantasy still arises out of some psychological or spiritual reservoir, meaning that whether we believe there can or cannot be Heaven on Earth depends on whether to believe we can progress in the direction of perfection or this dimension is stuck in a hopeless struggle with dualities. However, here is the rub, if we reach the point where the pain of imperfection is too much to bear, we often check our compasses and reset the rudder so as to move towards Heaven, this being our true state as compared to the more disjointed version in this third dimensional plane of existence. If, and this is certainly a big IF, Neptune would team up with someone more grounded, we could create Heaven on Earth and here is where there is no shadow since water and earth are harmonious.
In sum, there are various ways to get out of the rut, but they are predicated on the willingness to imagine a solution for disequilibrium and such an intense desire for harmony that we are willing to exert ourselves, using whichever tools we know how to use, which, of course, differs for each individual.