This was originally published right before an international astrology conference in early 2012. It’s my manifesto about what astrology needs to be, and where the profession needs to go. Have a look and if you get a chance, please tell me what you think of my ideas. — efc
Invite non-astrologer therapists to talk at our conferences about how to work in a counseling room setting. Nearly all contemporary astrologers serve as counselors, even though most don’t call themselves that. We’re expected to help our clients through divorces, personal losses, illnesses, working out relationships, bouts of depression. Counseling comes with the astrological territory. I propose that we recruit some of the more innovative voices from progressive therapy projects and explore working with people as people rather than as extensions of their chart.
We need a real conversation about ethics. In medicine, the practitioner is supposed to try to do no harm. In matters of ethics in astrology, is it enough for the astrologer to suggest that the client consider the ethical considerations of his or her choice (such as a financial investment)? Should the astrologer actually decline to offer certain astrological advice and timing that might cause harm? Should the astrologer turn down clients seeking astrological advice to better exploit someone or the environment? Is it ethical to write about the charts of famous people, without their consent? These, and other questions, are fodder for our real conversation about ethics.
Open up the discussion of modern astrology. During the past 20 years, the profession has developed a fixation on ancient astrology. The presence of informed scholars and greatly improved translations of old texts is a beautiful thing — beyond amazing, if you think about it. The reverence for tradition is honorable, healing something at the roots of the crisis that contemporary astrology finds itself in. Yet the solar system has changed profoundly in those same few decades. If you came to any astrology conference hoping to find out more about the newly discovered planets (Eris, Quaoar, Varuna, Sedna, Chiron and the centaurs, for example) you would typically find token representation. On a related theme — we can do a lot more with deep-space points (galaxies, pulsars, quasars). There are some great teachers who are doing alive, original work we can all benefit from.
Focus on sex. Many clients have pressing questions about sex, and the complex sexual histories they are sometimes working through — and there are few places to actually have the conversation. An astrologer is a logical place to go, but how many of us have specific training or advanced knowledge in this area? How can we create a safe space for the conversation? What if you’re discussing sexuality with a client who is making your mouth water? How do you help someone figure out what is healthy for them, if that’s what you’re called upon to do? If you’re not gay yourself, how do you work with someone who is coming out of the closet? There is a fantastic on-the-ground movement of sex educators in the United States, many of whom are already on the speaking circuit — and we need to tap this community to educate astrologers. We need some of these speakers as keynote presenters.
It’s time to provide astrologers with education about non-traditional relationship models. I have yet to see an astrology textbook that mentions polyamory, non-monogamous or other non-traditional relationship models. Yet many people are interested in these things, and lots of others are doing them without any special knowledge. It is readily available — another field with an active speaker’s circuit.
Are astrologers working from knowledge or belief? Do prominent Aquarian placements and/or prominent Uranus really indicate an enlightened, politically left ‘progressive’? Where are the statistical studies? We may need to put a disclaimer on the label. That said, reading a chart is a spontaneous and original experience, with all the factors taken in their unique context. It’s possible to teach something about how to do this.
Explore the use of astrology as a self-discovery tool. Most of our astrology is other-centered, yet a great many people use astrology as a self-discovery tool. It makes an excellent one — a kind of self-study spirituality game. Astrology is just one such path, though many others on other journeys might benefit from the self-reflexive learning from their charts. Here is an opportunity for astrology to cross-pollinate with other branches of modern spirituality.
How about real depth psychology training? Everyone agrees that astropsychobabble is not enough. The principles of depth psychology can be imparted in a series of classes, and study continued independently. For this I would propose non-astrological presenters, followed up by the most open-minded astrological presenters.
Working within the client’s religious framework. Astrologers work with people from diverse religious backgrounds. Religion is all the rage these days — and deep down, everyone has one. When you’re working with a devout Catholic, someone who is passionately Jewish or someone who is Hindu, it helps to be able to speak their spiritual language and work from within their frame of reference. It helps to understand the way they were taught metaphysical laws when they were a child. I propose that UAC and other conferences create a comparative religion track, and learn the role of astrology within the different approaches these religions take.
Get some astronomers on board. Minor planet astrologers (starting with Zane Stein) have a tradition of being friends with astronomers — and we have learned a lot from one another. Yes, there are actually some astronomers who are intrigued by what we’re doing. Astrologers would benefit from hearing about the latest advances in astronomy from the scientists themselves. Our profession has astronomy as its main basis, and this is a field where there has been astonishing growth and development the past 20 or so years. Let’s get together!
The environment is in distress — and we are all impacted by the situation. Just like there is no separating astrology from astronomy, there is no separating what we do from the condition of the Earth. Every single person we work with is impacted in some way, and there is a deep layer of grief that many people experience as we watch the devastation of the planet. Often that comes with a feeling of helplessness, yet this whole condition often drops back as the client’s personal affairs occupy the foreground. Many therapy methods encourage people not to think about the world — only to take care of themselves. We are, fortunately, evolving past a place where that’s even possible, and where the distinction is irrelevant.
Astrologers need business training. Every astrology practice is a small business, and it’s not so easy to run one of those. What’s the best way for someone to organize their business structure, and how do they decide? How do you set up the practice, your office and your schedule? At what point is it a good idea to hire an assistant, and how do you do that? This would be a fantastic full-day intensive, with many topics suitable for lecture sessions.
Create a lavish conference resource center. Imagine a room (like a ballroom or large conference room) with wide tables and a bunch of computers equipped with charting software, ephemerides, dials and other basic tools of the trade — set up on large tables. This would be staffed by experienced volunteer astrologers who could assist less experienced students with practical guidance and hands-on-the-work training in an informal format. You would be able to get help with your chart, seek tutoring in a special area of interest, learn how to use tools and have an intelligent one-on-one or small group conversation. This idea is stolen directly from John Dewey High School.
Astrological writing will benefit from fact-checking and attribution. Astrology stands halfway between the folk tradition and academic tradition. In folk tradition you can steal outright. In academic tradition, you usually attribute. While much of our knowledge is passed through the ages, some of it came out yesterday. We need to study, develop and teach the different modes of attribution. Also, data verification and collection has gone downhill steadily since the passing of Lois Rodden. This is an art that needs to be revived and honored by being taught.
What is astrology for? How does it work? And why do we use it? In order to use a tool safely, ethically and effectively, it’s necessary to understand how it works, and if that’s not possible, to be clear with ourselves how we think it works — and then explore the implications of that. Astrology often takes itself for granted, and rarely reflects on its failures, its shortcomings and its potential as a tool to approach life in a more holistic way.
It’s time to stop driving astrologers into debt to teach at conferences. Thanks to our subscribers, we at Planet Waves can afford to travel to conferences fully equipped and ready to go — but many astrologers must put the expenses on a credit card and pay it off. Some conferences pay better than others — though often presenters run at a significant loss, while the conference itself runs at a profit. If we’re going to have presenters already on the circuit or who come from outside our field, we will need to create the budget for that.
Astrologers fancy themselves intelligent people, equipped with one of the most sophisticated analytical tools in existence. Okay then, let’s figure this out.
While I’m at UAC I will be looking for people who can shed light on some of these topics, and if they’re game, I will share the interviews with you. Don’t forget to watch our Daily Astrology & Adventure page as well as Planet Waves FM starting midweek for our coverage of the United Astrology Conference.