In the last several years there’s a lot more information on what it means to be an empath. There are books, courses and programs that help you on thriving as an empath.

Being an empath has become a label – albeit at times a highly uncomfortable one to carry.

As part of my podcast Intersection Interview Series, I had the pleasure of speaking to Laura Rowe, a healer, teacher and mentor, whose work focuses on helping empaths thrive, not just survive. Through our conversation, I had a few insights of my own around this new label: being an empath.

The etymology of Empath(y)

When we describe someone as an empath, we are describing on one’s extra-sensory empathic ability to sense the emotions of others, in a way that is far from of how conventional science and psychology would explain.

In simpler terms, an empath is gifted with a larger ability for empathy – so let’s look at where empathy came from:

According to the Etymology Dictionary Online – empathy harks back to the translation of the Greek word empatheia, which meant passion, state of emotion and feeling (as in ‘suffer’). So at the core of EMPATHY lies our human ability to have PATHOS ‘feeling’ for another’s PASSION ‘suffering’.

In simpler terms, when you are an empath it’s as if your antenna picks up all the radio stations available, not just a select few. Granted this is on a bell curve of ability. Perhaps you may pick up all the stations, and others are more in tune to just a few extra stations.

According to writer Karla McLaren, “empathy is an art, but you are the artist.”

I love this take because not only is it more empowering, it’s co-creative. Whatever may be the gifts you have as an empath, you can see them as art supplies to your life’s opus.

Neptune and Empathy

Personally, I have noticed the rise of articles, books, posts on empathy around 2011 when Neptune entered his own realm: Pisces. The archetype of Neptune is complex and multi-layered, and this post isn’t enough to cover it, but suffice to say, Neptune is the ruler of the oceanic waters of Pisces, connecting us to that which is ineffable about our human condition.

Neptune is often described as spiritual, but there are way too many horrific denizens that inhabit this definition. Let’s just say the Neptune beckons us to face our yearning for being at one with God, the cosmic waters, singing to us the siren’s song that beneath our skin, we are really all ONE – no walls, no boundaries. Neptune teaches us (tough lessons at times) about dissolution as a way towards redemption; and deception and illusion as paths towards real understanding of what is truth.

Because it’s a slow moving planet, Neptune hadn’t been in his home turf since the mid 19th century (April 1847 through April 1862). It had only be discovered in September 23, 1846, so it was early days as astrologers back then learned about the archetypal forces of Neptune.

However in those early years as the collective engaged with Neptune, many events happened to give shape to Neptune’s place in our collective consciousness.

Neptune’s archetypal influence in the mid 19th century affected:

  • medicine/healing
  • freedom of slavery
  • first stirrings of the rise of the women’s movement
  • rise of new religions/spiritual movements, specially those that promoted the idea(l) that we are interconnected with Spirit
  • the Romantic Movement with its message of a return to nature
  • new art phase with the invention of photography and film (Neptune rules both of these artistic realms)

But there were also negative manifestations as in the rise of addiction to drugs and alcohol, prostitution, dehumanization for the workers in the factories, and the victimization of many other colonial territories.

No wonder, Neptune is linked to the savior and redeemer complexes.

When Neptune is prominent in one’s birth chart, it’s as if one is majoring in Neptunian, which often are rooted in issues of wanting to be saved, or being the one that has to save others, often via some self-sacrifice. There’s often a link between being the redeemer in another’s life, but also suffering the backlash of feeling like the victim. These are challenging subjects to get to the bottom of, because the boundaries are practically inexistent.

When it comes to boundaries, Neptune stands for the dissolution of such imposition to its influence. Think of the power of water to make even stone disappear.

Since 2011 when Neptune returned to its home turf, and where it will journey until 2025, we are revisiting some of the fields in which Neptune brought to bare back in the 19th century. This is where I believe the rise of the empath in our society is linked to Neptune bringing forth new ways of seeing spirituality and healing come together.

It’s not that empaths didn’t exist before, but I believe they were perceived very differently, as to how they are being seen now. For starters, we have now more information at our disposal. Many want tools to help them thrive, not just wobble along as if their gift was a disability. Plus we have a different understanding of energy, psychology and how these are interweaved.

Enter Saturn

If Neptune is for no boundaries, Saturn is all about (proper) boundaries. These two archetypes of Neptune and Saturn often are at odds with each other, but when they are able to work together – often in an uncomfortable harmony – amazing things can take shape.

In short, I prefer to see Saturn as the container, the birth canal to Neptune’s visions and dreams. Without the tools of Saturn of consistency, discipline (becoming one’s own disciple) and grounding, Neptune’s gifts may feel more like a curse than a gift.

When it comes to empaths, Saturn can be your best friend.

I believe we are all empaths, albeit in different positions on the bell curve. Personally, I don’t call myself an empath. I struggle with the label, but I find the subject fascinating. But I do believe that the rise of empaths since 2011, at least with more media coverage, is a signal that this is what our culture and society needs at this moment.

Unfortunately, since we are born without our instruction manual, it takes a long time, at least for most of us, to untangle the confusing beliefs we were fed as children. Like the Marvel X-Men heroes, our ‘mutant’ qualities are often first seen as a liability, not an asset.

That’s where good old Saturn as the archetype of the teacher/master comes in to help us – hopefully – learn to use these gifts for good, not evil. Comic heroes aside, the core message I feel when it comes to Neptune/Saturn and its link to empaths is this:

If we are born with different gifts, it’s because we are supposed to use them in the world, not to assimilate to what society has already established. Otherwise no change would ever happen in our human history. It’s always the unique, eccentric even, that brings about the necessary change.

When a planet is ‘discovered’, it means that as a society we are ready to face this new archetype that has risen to the collective consciousness.

When Neptune was ‘discovered’, we were called to become aware of that which is ineffable in our human consciousness. Now that Neptune has been revisiting his old stomping grounds, we see the rise of empaths (and many other things beyond the scope of this blog post), as a signal that what is needed for our collective survival and thriving is: GENEROUS EMPATHY to not just our fellow human beings, but the animals and nature – aka Mother Nature.

Because of empaths’ ability to receive information for a wider choice of energetic ‘radio stations’, they can help us perceive different levels of consciousness that are imbedded within our limited awareness range of consciousness.

Neptune is often described as the king of illusions and delusions.

I believe that our askew relationship with our own inner Neptune harks back to our collective illiteracy around seeing the different levels of consciousness that surrounds us. The overwhelm we may feel as empaths is because we are in need of others to also embrace seeing what needs to be acknowledged, and not just leave all the emotional processing for a few others to carry as extra luggage.

Listen to the podcast here and learn more from my conversation with Laura Rowe.

Then drop us a line about your own experience on the subject.

To be an empath is to be energetically bilingual.

If you have tried to learn a new language you know that becoming fluent takes time, patience and skill.

We are all learning a new emotional language and at first things are deeply wonky, but I believe that after Neptune leaves Pisces in 2025, will be better skilled on consciously navigating our own empathic gifts.