Reconstructing Astrology


A New Look at an Old Shifting Paradigm

by Ted Denmark, Ph.D.

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As one who offers astrological-based counseling services in this late Postmodern Era, I often feel a need to add some additional explanation about this unique and controversial subject to which people, with some justification, have fairly extreme attitudes. I’m not sure if “counseling” is the right word for what happens when I sit down with someone interested in an astrology “reading” since the counseling connotations evoke an institutional approach with academically-trained and supervised staff caring for troubled individuals with insurance coverage, and the like. We all make accommodations to societal and institutional norms in various ways, and there can be problems along the way that a variety of counselors can help us navigate with their practiced expertise when we falter, but our subject, Astrology, is a far cry from the institutional mainstream. Paradoxically to many, this ancient “occult” study (meaning “hidden” or “obscure”) is about the universality of knowledge, the uniqueness of the individual, the nature of authentic self-discovery and an awareness of what is a naturally appropriate style for making significant life choices. It stretches from self-help to client-based counseling or consulting (probably a better designation). Astrology in its best guise, also attempts to present a serious metaphysical take on the nature of the soul—the inner core of individuality—and its spiritual dimensions in the life of the “native,” the one who was born at a particular time on a certain date and at a known place. I tend to find the individuals who come for such astrological readings to be rather impressive generally and the tone of the meetings quite varied and often fascinating, which even after more than forty years, can still seem remarkably fresh and interesting.

Much of our way of thinking about things is often simplistic and cast into a dualistic either/or mode: good or bad, right or wrong, true or false, and so on. Another good example is that of nature versus nurture, as we attempt to attribute aspects of our selves to either our makeup, at present usually understood in terms of genetic inheritance, or our early upbringing at home and later socialization at school and various other places in numerous experiences with others. This is the standard scientific scheme that predominates, and the vast majority of intelligent people today would not question whether it is correct and sufficient. For the most part the nature of the soul, insofar as it is seriously considered in intellectual discourse at all, is a leftover from another era, whose “salvation” is a matter for religious advocacy and disputation. Even for the ordinary religious person today in the western democracies, the burning questions of earlier centuries concerning faith and the nature of the soul vis-à-vis God have also lost most of their urgency or even savor, many having reached the conclusion that there is little to be learned that wasn’t settled centuries ago. It is hard for us to get beyond thinking in terms of these two fundamental worldviews which are so dominant and taken-for-granted as the basis for understanding ourselves, as the scientific enterprise has been rapidly gaining momentum and influence at the expense of religious attitudes during the last few centuries.

But there are also a number of “third stream” influences in the modern cultural mix that enter into the picture like “Humanism” or Masonry in addition to all the eastern “religions” like Buddhism—or in the case of Astrology—has re-entered … as another curious alternative placeholder witnessing the deadlock of the two main cultural titans. How much impact the fundamental idea in the astrological worldview that we are about to enter—or have recently entered—a “New Age” that will produce a fundamentally different kind of person and eventually lead to a new kind of civilization, will have outside the progressive, radical or avant-garde cultural sectors, remains to be seen. The celestial motions are a bit complex to understand, but here on Earth, because of a slight wobble as it spins on its axis, the backdrop of starry constellations is slowly shifting backwards in relation to our seasons (a phenomenon known as the Precession of the Equinoxes). If viewed at the same time and place every year, as on the first day of Spring or Vernal Equinox, the Sun can be seen to be slowly moving backwards through the constellation Pisces, coming closer to the boundary or cusp of the constellation Aquarius.

There are different opinions about what the exact degree by astrological sign might be because no one is sure where any of the constellation or sign boundaries are located anyway, but the idea is that these constellations or “Great Signs of the Zodiac” which each take about 2200 years to pass in this motion, exert their particular “influence” over the long historical period during this time. This would mean that at present we are nearing the end of the “Aeon” or Age of Pisces, and are beginning that of Aquarius. It is a fascinating study to look at history with this scheme in mind. From knowledge of the sign Pisces in natal astrology, the branch of astrology about the psychology of human experience that is most interesting to myself, the Age of Pisces would have been expected to be primarily about development of feelings of religious faith, mysticism, romanticism, depth of sensitivity or compassion (but also isolation, confusion and self destruction!) and the like after a long period ruled by militant aggression and the rule of “might is right” from the immediately preceding Age of Aries. Likewise the Age of Aquarius, in this astrological scheme, is now expected to be coming into greater influence culturally and historically with such characteristic features as emphasis on education, rationality, scientific knowledge, technological achievement, acceptance of racial diversity and the fundamental rightness of human freedom and individuality. The corresponding negative side would be largely the problems of eccentricity, overly rebellious individuality, impulsive extreme attitudes leading to violent expression and detached chilling rationality.

Does any of this sound familiar yet? Many astrologers believe that the earliest glimmerings of the Age of Aquarius were discernable in the events of the Enlightenment, particularly the American Revolution in the “New World.” It is particularly fascinating that the planet Uranus, the “ruler” of the Sign Aquarius, was discovered by Hershel in 1781 just after the promulgation to the world of the Declaration of Independence, just before the French Revolution, which together have inspired a cascade of political and cultural revolutions that are still ongoing at present. Could this all be just another meaningless coincidence? It takes a lot more detail and a fair amount of time to begin to convince oneself or anyone else that there are historical patterns that fit very easily into this timing scheme that Astrology provides, but perhaps this little appetizer is enough to give the flavor.

There are quite a few varieties of astrology to be found, from the serious to the silly, but the basic premise is the same: that the nature of individuality cannot be understood by limiting it to our current understanding of the “nature or nurture dichotomy”—there is a third factor, the many previous lives experienced by each individual self or soul. For Astrology the main interest in the soul, unlike the traditional religious concern for its eternal salvation or damnation (there’s that duality again), is in understanding our lives, with all the possibilities for gain and loss and all the rest, as a function of these previous lives currently unfolding on our glorious island in space/time within the complex of planetary motions in our solar system. Astrology, unlike all the varieties of Biblical Christianity, assumes that the soul has lived many lives historically in varied cultures worldwide—and maybe on other planets as well (!)—to arrive at the point in evolution shown in the present life, and that it must yet be “recycled” many more times, eventually leading to “graduation” from incarnation in the Human Kingdom.

This further destination, the Spiritual Kingdom, would be like the Heaven World that graces the Biblical teaching. In the Western astrological tradition many different practical techniques have evolved for discovering and understanding how the schema of types (the twelve astrological signs) fit the timing of events and circumstances in the life of the individual (the soul in incarnation), but there is a fundamental core of interpretation that has coalesced as astrology has made a major resurgence in the modern period beginning late in the Nineteenth Century, which has now reached a point of integration that bears re-examination as one of the strongest “third stream” sources allowing us to get beyond this deadlock of religion and science that I believe currently blocks our understanding of truth at a deeper level. Though controversial, the integration of this new awareness which has emerged from numerous sources both ancient and modern, is one of the great stories of our time, but for those who are perhaps skeptical about this approach, it’s my hope that further consideration of a few broad brush strokes will be worth while.


First there is the “popular” Sun Sign Astrology of the daily horoscope variety, which originally meant “watching the hour” and was related to the Ascendant or eastern “Rising Sign” rather than the natal Sun Sign—a still meaningful commonality of “real astrology.” Everyone has seen the columns in newspapers, magazines, and now especially, on the Internet, often believing that this is the main event or full scope of what Astrology is—or ever was—about. Although we might find these popular forecasts entertaining or amusing, most of us who have studied the subject in a more serious way, probably feel that, compared to the real thing, such typically disposable advise based merely on Sun Sign homilies, is a confusing and misleading oversimplification … and there can be no denying that this is so. But simplified Sun Sign Astrology, even if it’s not completely without value, is merely a faint echo of a fascinating tradition that conventional history has barely attempted to describe since it is rather complicated and felt by many opinion makers to be in opposition, as noted, to both the current “standard science” worldview and various wavering religious orthodoxies. One of the few popular works I have seen presenting a very astute presentation of this fascinating story is the celebrated short history of philosophy by Richard Tarnas entitled The Passion of the Western Mind. And indeed, it is something of an embarrassment (or an anathema!) to modern philosophy of science since so many of the imminent scientists of the Enlightenment, such as Newton, Galileo, Copernicus and Kepler, were quite involved with Astrology. It was actually one of the main reasons these early scientific innovators felt it to be so important to understand the true workings of celestial mechanics—to be able to predict where all the stars and planets would be located at any given time so that they could accurately draw their astrology charts! Always controversial, astrology is and has been one of the main contexts for interpreting a purposive cosmic reality in the contemporary West as well as in virtually all advanced ancient cultures worldwide.

Today, many modern people with university educations, believe that Astrology was disproved and has been completely disposed of by the heliocentric theory of Copernicus who was able to show that the Sun, rather than the Earth, lay at the center of our “Solar System.” However, the death of Astrology has all too often been greatly exaggerated. Given the tumult caused by the need to accept the revolutionary nature of the heliocentric picture (particularly by the church), the reality is that for us Earth Humans, our lovely Terra remains the center of our universe, however much all of the other bodies in space may be moving in nested patterns relative to each other. This continuing story of discovery of the way our solar system moves within our Milky Way galaxy, and how it in turn fits into the larger cosmic structure, is a fascinating one that space-based instrumentation and exploration greatly extended during the late Twentieth Century. There are now amazing new breakthroughs in both observational and theoretical astrophysics on a monthly basis, so perhaps it would be wise for us all to try to maintain an open mind about how all this new information may eventually fit together into a more comprehensive understanding of reality, seen and unseen. It is beginning to look like the visible matter in the universe, which scientists used to think was essentially all that exists, is only a small fraction of the totality of being—the far vaster remainder being so-called “dark matter” and “dark energy” perhaps yet with almost totally unknown effects on the visible fraction with the exception of gravity, which in spite of a common simplistic pattern of reliance in scientific circles, remains quite enigmatic for any “Grand Unification” strategy.

The main notion of the “astrological hypothesis,” at least for natal astrology, is that a map of the heavens (as viewed from Earth), the actual locations, of not just the Sun, but the Moon and all the planets in relation to the backdrop of the stars—at the particular moment a person is born—can be interpreted in a consistent and meaningful way so that the life of that person can be understood to proceed in parallel with this dynamic sky map, and accurate interpretations can indeed be scaled in relation to events in that person’s life: past, present and future. This idea comes down to us in the traditional aphorism, known as the Hermetic Axiom: As Above, So Below. The reason why this is so is a deeper mystery needing a still more detailed inquiry beyond the current aim—even most astrologers don’t really have a rationale for this that holds up under scrutiny. Yet the saving grace of astrology is that it’s also necessarily based on empirical verification; that is, subject to factual proof, rather than merely being floated as a belief system, a hallmark of the revolutionary scientific approach.

When I first began to look at Astrology as a university student interested in many different psychological and philosophical ideas and beliefs more than fifty years ago, I approached the subject as a skeptic willing to investigate and likely prove to myself that there wouldn’t be a great deal to astrology that I would have to take very seriously. After learning the essentials of setting up a natal astrology chart for myself from one of the beginner texts, what I found really surprised me. This portrait of myself came closer to describing me—as I knew myself to be—than any account of personality theory or the like that I had ever seen! Now I was intrigued enough to calculate and draw charts of friends and relatives who would indulge me by giving me their birth data (particularly the accurate birth times they would have to find on birth certificates). And once again, each person was obviously recognizable from the sketch presented in the look-up “cookbook” paragraphs, and this appeared to be repeatable and not a fluke or “just a coincidence.” I was fairly amazed and determined to discover how this could be.


My natal astrology chart with Sun rising in Pisces & Moon (conjunct Mars and Saturn) in Gemini

And so began a long-term interest and an avocational career with this peculiar and fascinating subject routinely ridiculed by more established mainstream cultural attitudes, primarily the authoritative voices of science and religion—but generally as well, except perhaps as entertainment. I have to admit that even today astrological phenomena often seem improbable at times, even to me, when I reflect on the complexity of it all, but the conclusion that I have to report is that after many years of experience doing chart readings with hundreds of diverse individuals, there have been only a few times when the acknowledged life of the person and the pattern of the chart didn’t fit well together. But in nearly every one of the handful of these situations, the person came back later to tell me that the time they had given me—which they initially believed to be correct—turned out to be mistaken! After being supplied with the corrected time, the pattern of the person’s life portrait then clearly snapped into focus. This is the empirical aspect of astrology that accompanies the complex conceptual side—as obvious as recognizing the face of someone you may not have seen for a while but have no real doubt that it is indeed the person.

There are many individuals and institutions today, as in the past, who or which simply do not want the “astrology hypothesis” to be seen as even a little bit true—no matter what. They are the stakeholders who wish to convince us that all the evidence is, and always has been, going against astrology. This projected authoritative attitude seems to come from a fear that the creditability of both our dominant Western worldviews, conventional materialistic science (“standard science”) and our traditional creedal religious beliefs (“Biblical Churchianity”), both need support rather than being further shaken or questioned. In the case of standard science, Astrology, which assigns a strong free-will component to human consciousness, terribly complicates the simplified conception of deterministic man in a dead if randomly evolving universe. For traditional creedal churchianity, which, like standard science, has had a varied relationship with Astrology: the Bible does not seem to be in favor of it, and the whole thing just seems too much like it could too easily become the work of the devil. But Astrology as an independent cultural outsider that has not been assimilated or gone away, knocks yet again at the door opening to Century 21 and beyond, with an appeal for ancient truths not yet sufficiently acknowledged.

My personal feeling is that for any impartial, fair-minded, and also reasonably well-trained and experienced analyst, the correlation between circumstances in a person’s life and the correctly-interpreted astrological reading (this is the hard part) of the natal chart based on that person’s accurate birth data, is coincident to a remarkably high degree … let’s say, somewhere in the 75% range … even if it is not the same somewhat arbitrarily high degree of certainty required by experimental “hard science,” i.e., 95% predicted repeatability for agreed-upon verification. However, human behavior—and this is what we are considering—is inherently less predictable or able in a formalized way to the degree that physical scientific theory requires. This is the rub that drives many otherwise reasonable people seeking scientific consistency to try to make themselves believe that human freedom is an illusion that will ultimately be “explained” as a function of known physical processes. This has resulted in the current run-up in value of “neuroscience” on the scientific stock market. The irony here is that many critics of astrology would have us believe that it is Astrology that is deterministic, if only in the sense that one is determined (maybe “conditioned”?) to behave in a clichéd way like one’s Sun Sign. I have never encountered an astrological text that presumes philosophical determinism, as do many if not most logically consistent scientific texts, the behaviorists being the most amusing of all (“I’ve noticed I’m taking an aspirin, therefore I must have a headache.”).

It’s true that many studies—with mostly negative conclusions regarding astrology—have attempted to evaluate some aspect of the Astrology hypothesis, but these typically look to me as either clearly-biased hatchet jobs or just plainly inadequate for the claimed result. It turns out to be rather difficult to either prove or disprove even the central issues in Astrology with tests that have been crafted by social-science statisticians (that also makes one wonder about some of the confusion in other areas to which this approach has been applied). However, the painstaking and remarkably innovative work of Michel Gauquelin, a French-American mathematician and psychologist of a generation or so ago, whose many large-sample studies showing statistically significant correlations between rising or culminating planets in the charts of many professional people, has proven that at least one major astrological premise is true (the strategic importance of the four Cardinal Points) —even if the findings have also been somewhat at variance with traditional astrological teaching! The story is a fascinating one, how this revolutionary, large-sample and often successfully replicated set of findings was subjected to as much fear, uncertainty and doubt as well as dirty tricks and just plain dishonesty that many supposedly fair-minded and unbiased scientists could cleverly devise to discredit it, even at elite academic institutions.

Everyone who has seriously studied the Gauquelin correlations between profession and planetary positions (which are not going away after three decades of confirmation), and realized their significance, probably also has his own notion of how and why this is yet a research aberration. Other reasons the scientific world remains skeptical of Astrology, apart from the need for a different threshold level for verification, are the common historical origins of astrology and science as well as just not liking many of the people who find Astrology attractive, often because they are flashy “outsiders” lacking in scientific rigor and modesty. And of course the main reason is that they can’t really begin to offer an explanation, based on the accepted, conventional science of our day, of how Astrology could possibly be true—the core set of concepts are so radical and unexpected for physical scientists—or even social scientists. The situation is not unlike that of the bishops in Galileo’s time who refused to look through his telescope to see the Moons of Jupiter for the first time, allowing themselves to hold their dogmatic beliefs for as long as possible. The current situation of the scientific establishment casting aspersions on Astrology without making even the slightest attempt to research or understand the subject, is thus striking if understandable. It is often physicists who are most prone to this attitude of hierarchical superiority, believing that Astrology simply can’t be true because it is unrecognized by the “laws of physics,” even if those laws ain’t what they used to be. Naïve realism assures them that if it were really true, they would have already heard about it (!).

Like many observers who have investigated this state of affairs and, finding that impressive astrological correlations do exist, I, too, have a number of ideas, extending from the scientific to the metaphysical, my current scientific favorite being the curious phenomena of superconductivity, an improbable area of intense scientific investigation in recent years, particularly after the cold fusion controversy of the late Eighties, which itself is a nearly perfect replay of the scientific establishment’s heavy-handed need for conformity in the face of divergent empirical data. One of the dirty little secrets of modern science is that official secrecy trumps sharing of scientific knowledge, and here the constraints of classified scientific secrets successfully suppressed experimental truth seekers, even in the world of science.

It has been obvious for some time now that this ancient study we call Astrology, which many think ought to be given a more modern-sounding name to sidestep the ancient controversies (and many have tried) is yet in process of making a comeback, even if it appears to be somewhat arrested in early Century 21 by the dismal Neo-con geopolitics. The main reason is that Astrology has shown itself to be the best basis we have on which to develop a modern science of psychology—beginning with human subjects rather than animal surrogates—taking into account all of the richness and diversity of individual differences that we see in people’s lives. To me this is the thing most obviously missing in academic and professional psychology.

I don’t see Astrology, with its offer to help explain and improve awareness of the human condition, returning to the famous academic halls any time soon, but even at the current time two new fully-accredited university level schools dedicated to metaphysical and/or astrological-based instruction and offering four-year degree programs, have recently come into existence. They are Kepler College in Lynwood, Washington, near Seattle ( and the Astrological Institute in Scottsdale, Arizona ( Eventually, as greater progress is made in the continuing evolution and synthesis of scientific understanding—the great hope for the new Millennium—the newest incarnation of Astrology will make a new entry (as always, from stage left) into the mainstream cultural mix—and will probably be called something else more “scientific.” Perhaps the word “cycle” would sound scientifically distinguished enough—my own favorite has been “Astro-psychology,” but I would settle for “planetary harmonics.” Richard Tarnas’ “Archetypal Astrology” has got to be a contender, as well. Perhaps “Jungian Psychology” will have to bear the burden of support a bit longer …

In the meantime we have something still called Astrology that can quickly provide an understanding of the timing of at least the major circumstances of interest in the lives of real people … from simple demographic data. For those whose interest has been piqued I would like to offer the additional six following tentative answers to some frequently asked questions about this risqué stellar-science mistress.


1. What is Astrology?

As noted, largely because of Sun Sign Astrology, many have the idea that Astrology is merely a leveling scheme in which people are reduced to Sun Sign stereotypes. However, in the expanse of the natal chart, which is the starting point of any real astrological analysis, just the opposite is true—it is the uniqueness of the moment of individual birth time that is symbolically abstracted and interpreted. There was only one person born at any particular time and place, except, of course, when there are twin or multiple births at nearly the same time, and this leads to some interesting twin studies as in other psychological areas. It is also possible that someone could have been born at nearly the same time in the same hospital, say, and these sorts of studies have been done and are also very interesting.

The truth seems to be that no one really knows how or where Astrology originated. The most scholarly and fair-minded modern history (A History of Western Astrology by Jim Tester, Ballantine, 1987) emphasizes the pivotal role, as usual, of the Greeks as systematizers of the European intellectual inheritance from more “primitive” origins in Central Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere. The kind of Astrology pursued by most modern practitioners makes the term “Astrology,” which has the root syllable meaning “star,” something of a misnomer because it is primarily phenomena of the Sun, Moon and planets that are used in making judgments from reasoning and intuition. In the ancient world when relatively little was known about the actual nature of the various heavenly bodies, all of the lights in the sky were “stars,” and what we call the planets today were the “wanderers,” the stars that moved. In modern times, roughly preceding World War II in the United States, when the racial, ethnic, and religious affiliations (and civil rights!) of a person were somewhat less politely or publicly respected, the skeptics and detractors of Astrology succeeded in legally defining it as “fortune telling,” making it punishable as a misdemeanor or in a few places, a felony. Even today in some small municipalities these laws are still on the books, if little used. The dictionary defines “fortune teller” as a person who professes to predict future events. How times have changed! Only a short time ago one could be landed in jail for attempting to predict the future. The story goes that the “authorities” were fearful that someone could pose as a fortune teller, predict a crime and then become the actual criminal perpetrator for personal gain or something of that kind—seeming somewhat quaint to us today.

So the question whether Astrology is fortune telling would appear to partially depend on whether Astrology can or claims to be able to predict the future. But this question of predicting the future is more subtle than one might at first imagine. In a sense everyone must be able to “predict the future” in order to function normally in ordinary life—one instinctively believes one’s vision of the future has some fair chance of manifesting. There is probably also a non-trivial sense of future prediction engaged in by farmers, stockbrokers, and many others who literally bet their money—or the farm—on a particular event they believe will happen at some relevant future time. But when we think of future prediction in relation to fortune telling, we probably imagine a more extended sense that might involve some “paranormal” or psychic ability—if we believe this might be possible at all—in which someone is able to accurately say beforehand that a particular detailed factual circumstance, that might be fairly improbable, will occur and it does amidst general agreement of verification.

My own experience is that the skilled use of legitimate Astrology symbolism, by itself, is not able to offer this extended, detailed concrete form of future event prediction, and in this regard is therefore not fortune telling. But somewhere between this non-trivial midground level of prediction (farmers and stock brokers) and this total, factually detailed notion of prediction, there is a range where Astrology fits and is able to predict future probabilities in the life of the person at a particular time, based on sky map (astrology chart) symbolism. Whether Astrology, in the final analysis, is really fortune telling or not is still a bit uncertain, regarding as yet incipient powers of mind, though most of those who attempt to call it fortune telling would probably be attempting guilt by association with “Gypsies” and various others with “well-known” questionable scruples, thus attempting justification of censure and scapegoating. And there is no doubt that in the past as well as currently, Astrology has attracted the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, with perhaps more than its fair share of the tricksters that fall in the cracks between, but more about this later.

The nature of time is yet one of the great mysteries of our life experience in both the ordinary and scientific provinces. There are many fascinating accounts of the lives of psychics and prophets that offer nearly compelling evidence that parallel universes co-exist and that time travel lies in the future for Earthumans to develop. Though accounts of the rare and amazing abilities of, say, an Edgar Cayce or Nostradamus, however well-documented they may be … and they really are quite astounding … but such extreme cases are just too unfamiliar to ordinary people—even very smart, talented people—to be believable (unless they have had extraordinary experiences themselves). It is nearly the same situation in the world of quantum physics where the paradoxical, dualistic particle/wave nature of the photon, if not the electron, derails ordinary logic—we just don’t have a way that is at an appropriate scale for interpreting such apparent fundamental contradictions, even if we know we have no alternative than believing our senses. If there already is, as I am personally convinced, a developing extrasensory capacity in the human psyche for perceiving some aspect of the future that is already virtually real from the standpoint of a particular preceding time, we don’t have to look to astrology symbolism to account for it in this small number of “precocious” individuals.

From an ethical viewpoint, many of the uses of Astrology, apart from that of gaining greater personal strength and psychological awareness, such as stock market forecasting, weather prediction, earthquake forecasting, and many other specialized predictive activities, are more questionable and difficult if at all astrologically possible. Many individuals who engage in these sorts of predictions say they make use of astrology as their basis, but they are probably working more from belief or from some psychic or visionary realm and claiming to use Astrology for whatever credibility it might offer as an additional predictive adjunct. As yet there is little documented success for astrological prediction of events in the physical world (apart from the Gauquelin correlations between rising or culminating planets and certain professions), but the age of computing is really only beginning to make it possible to do the sophisticated multivariate analysis needed, so stay tuned.

Apart from the common notion that time is cyclic, circular or spiral rather than linear, astrologers tend to have various complex metaphysical views about the nature of time whatever they may believe about predicting of future events, my own being fairly typical: that some major future events are largely determined (relative to a stretch of preceding time), but that there are both individual and group free-will decisions that are absolutely undetermined and unknown (even by “the Mind of God”) until they are made in conscious awareness and then carried out. At any given time there are a small number of multiple probable realities in a virtual future “time tapestry” in the making that, given those ongoing choices, activities and behaviors, presage a partial future that exists and is “viewable” in a psychic sense by occasional rare seers. But this most probable virtual future need not become actualized into the coming real present, but may and often does, change with certain key events along the way so that the future is never completely what it used to be in relation to the present. The future of a simple progressive linear “time line,” the naive realism of ordinary experience and the “arrow of time,” a familiar metaphor in standard science, may have a similar fate as the idea of a flat earth at the center of the cosmos, which was the unquestioned conventional wisdom for many centuries.

But even gifted psychics, of which there are only a small number and even fewer who ever become known, who can sense seemingly authentic futuristic images, are nonetheless also often wrong in their projections about timing. This psychic sense, often one of seeing visions or images, is usually quite different than making projections or deductions, or having intuitions from examining astrological charts. Psychics might have a vision but they typically don’t know when it might happen. There are also a very small number of “psychic astrologers,” but usually astrologers have a different, more symbolic and analytical mentality than psychics, who are more feeling-based and image-oriented. However, such a psychic astrologer, capable of integrating the analytic understanding of planetary harmonics with a gifted psychic sense, would have a great advantage in prognosticating future events, and it is probably the existence of a few such famously rare individuals, like Nostradamus, who have created the astrology legend of amazingly accurate future predictions. Just how amazing the Nostradamus story might have been can be discovered in the three-volume study by Dolores Cannon called Conversations with Nostradamus (Ozark Mountain Press).

This fundamental notion that time or timing is circular or spiral rather than linear as most people commonly assume, is related to the fact that the planets travel in elliptical orbits around and with the Sun as it—and we— are literally pulled across the cosmos in tow. This is the main astronomical feature that is given mundane meaning by Astrology. There is the notion of layered repetition in various phases as the planets complete their orbits each at different rates, yet because of many small variations of motion as seen from the earthly viewing platform (precession, lunar nutation and many others) the orbiting pattern of the heavenly bodies is never exactly repeated, so there are cycles within cycles within cycles of archetypal similarity in timed repetition—but always uniqueness in the eternal moment of now. It is my belief that the Sun, Moon and planets are the archetypes of experience so carefully cultivated—and somewhat disguised—by Jungian psychology.

A related evocative term, having great currency at present is “synchronicity,” also coming by way of the great Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, who cautiously took an interest in Astrology and wrote about it at one point in his career. A synchronicity, or set of meaningful circumstances that happen at the “same time” but without apparent ordinary causal connection, was Jung’s characterization of the essential astrological phenomenon: things that happen at a particular moment in time, then have the “characteristics” of that moment. In many ways our instinctual belief in ordinary causality, which is the bedrock of the success of our physical sciences, may be too great a simplification in the greater scheme of things, even for physical reality (and there are many reasons for thinking so). The deeper reality may be that there is a far more complex extended causality in which consciousness interacts with energies and extended realities beyond that of physical substance and electromagnetic radiation (whose unknown number of octaves is mysterious enough), of which consciousness will eventually “in the fullness of time” evolve into a greater awareness.

For example, later in the day after I had written the comment about twins (which appears earlier in this essay), I was amazed to receive a call from a man making an inquiry about getting an astrology chart reading—who mentioned he was a twin. This was the first time I could remember that I had ever had the prospect of working with a pair of twins (his twin brother would be coming, too). And if this wasn’t enough, another woman called me a couple of days later for a reading, who just happened to be the mother of twins! It really was an amazing synchronicity that simply defies ordinary explanations. And finally today (more than a month later), as I re-read this article for the final edits [2002], another woman called for an astrology reading, who also happened to announce, on her own, that she is a twin!

There are, of course, many other logical, psychological and philosophical issues in all this that are ongoing and require serious extended examination and discussion relating to issues of human freedom, religious belief in miracles, artificial intelligence, etc. One’s personal attitude towards many such issues is a primarily idiosyncratic matter of great complexity that goes beyond the current discussion and is itself an example of the nature of the truth-seeking freedom of mentality inherent in individuated human awareness. Yet it should probably be stated for those who would be reassured that Astrology is not atheistic, anti-scientific, anti-religious or anti-clerical—any more than is democracy, to which, I believe it is fundamentally allied. It is certainly not opposed to pursuits leading to increased scientific knowledge, which are most needed by Astrology itself to be lifted out of a more ignorant and superstitious past when many false ideas were held generally; nor to “real religion,” the outcome of deep mystical insights that have come down the ages.

2. What is an astrology reading like?

I tend to think of the astrological interpretation I present to clients, at least initially, as a kind of portraiture, almost like a visual artist, but at a conceptual level—a kind of abstract “this is—or probably has been—your life.” It usually starts without knowing anything about the person except what one might note from a phone call or in the moment of meeting. It is out of this “cold reading” that many skeptics imagine is the only possible basis from which astrologers then elaborate in great effusive and flattering generalizations. However, that seemingly clever gambit offered by the debunkers is not even a marginally adequate explanation. If the portraiture is reasonably accurate (as it nearly always is—to a degree that typically amazes both the client and myself, even after all these years), then I am able at that point to conclude that the time of birth given to me is likely accurate enough (always the main uncertainty).

Then, by having initially “calibrated” the chart to the person, I feel sufficiently confident to begin pushing the symbolism further into the unknown past and future, attempting all the while to interpret it in light of the specific circumstances in the life of the person as they begin to reveal aspects of themselves, increasingly encouraging participation from the client in a mode that is most natural. Some people just want to listen (particularly if they are skeptical or suspicious) and find out everything I might have to say while others begin to engage and react with opinions, memories, ideas, etc. I can recall a number of clients who simply burst out into tears (mostly women, of course, who are more inclined to be interested in Astrology than men). It is this kind of process that generates the creative insights and breakthroughs of this extraordinary kind of dialogue that can be so exciting and rewarding for both client and analyst.

Even though there are fewer recognized standards and agreed upon formalized procedures in astrological practice than in many other familiar professional activities (though it is well to note that many “standardized” professions such as medicine, of whom Jung was also a practitioner, are undergoing major transitions at present), my particular approach, while uniquely my own, would nonetheless be recognizable by most other serious practitioners as a modern, and perhaps even fairly typical, astrological approach.

Astrology also has a different set of premises and expectations than say, psychiatry or academic counseling psychology. Astrological consulting provides a service that is unique and not duplicated anywhere else in the spectrum of personal or psychological services. Much academic clinical psychology has largely been involved with various aspects of physical behavior, particularly abnormal or dysfunctional behavior, and has split into “talking” or biography therapy and drug therapy branches (as well as many other hybrid approaches), but in the dominant realm of professional academic psychology, even “personality,” beyond the notion of apparently random attributes based on deterministic genetic models and the like, remains a fairly radical “metaphysical” idea. Occam’s Razor (favoring relatively simple explanations rather than ones of greater complexity) may have served the physical sciences well in the early “ground up” empirical sweep of the enterprise but has stalled into KISS (keep it simple stupid) in the social sciences in the effort to find a deeper understanding of the nature of human experience. And then, of course, there’s the remaining old Freudian warhorses that have mostly been put out to pasture (it’s such a revelation for an astrologer to study the charts of Jung and Freud).

At one time I was able to work with a clinical psychologist willing to experiment to see if Astrology could help with her most troubled clients and patients. This is too complex a story except for quick mention, but it was a fascinating experience because the charts I prepared for those people having such difficult life experiences, as a collection, were easily the most difficult ones I had ever seen (!). Someday more work will doubtless be done in this area to some advantage, bridging Astrology and clinical psychological counseling. But the most creative and satisfying ongoing experiences I have had is what I call “dotting the I” in the lives of people with more normal prospects and concerns—fine tuning the high-grade “normals” and participating with them for greater awareness and realization of their own individual potentials at various stages of life.

This astrology-based psychology or “astro-psychology” is therefore a kind of “meta-psychology.” Just as metaphysics, in relation to physics in the classical Aristotelian scheme, stood “above” physics in the great chain of being—the ancient philosophy generally regarded as the origin of modern empirical sciences, but discredited by the dominant positivist, reductionist, materialist wing of modern science. So this “Astro-Meta-Psychology” (AMP) is largely concerned with everything “above” or beyond mere behaviors or issues stemming from physiology, from identity and cognitive issues in personality development to more complex, theories of knowledge, states of consciousness and spiritual philosophies.

3. Why does (or would) one consult an Astrologer?

Having gained some notion of the fundamentals of Astrology, which, if we can possibly begin to find them at all credible, makes the rest of the story easier. If the main premise of Astrology is correct, i.e., that the personality type and the timing of circumstances in one’s life do run parallel with the pattern of celestial bodies in the sky beginning at the first breath, the crucial “birth imprint” moment, then the answer to the question may be obvious. Any valid understanding of the nature of God, the Tao, “hipness,” “the Way things are,” etc., is bound to provide some degree of collective satisfaction, but any simple (!) technique that provides a unique insight into the nature of personal identity and destiny, will be highly esteemed by anyone, regardless of their belief system—or specific lack of one. Some will find this of sufficient merit for engagement by curious pursuit, as I did; however, most people will only be sufficiently aroused when facing what feels like a major problem: some difficulty, crisis, transformation, challenge, decision, or whatever else they might call a more or less serious disturbance to their normally-contented lifestyle, which they think Astrology might help them better understand.

In Astrology we have what are called the four Cardinal Points that represent the four major areas of life:

  1. The Ascendant or Rising Sign, representing the identity, self-awareness, or ego of the person—as they know themselves inwardly to be.
  2. The Midheaven, representing the projected self that takes various roles in public life, typically in a career or work environment, though that role can just as well be played out in the home, in which case it is a bit less public though not less significant.
  3. The Descendant, representing the circumstances and manner of being involved with others both in the primary partner relationship and secondary acquaintances having more social or business-like contexts but that are yet characterized by meeting and sharing on a personalized one-to-one basis.
  4. The Nadir, representing the current home life, the situation of growing up in the original family home and relations with siblings and other family relations.

When any one of these major areas of life are stressed or in crisis, most people are apt to feel a need for sharing their feelings and attitudes with someone they know or trust, whether or not they expect to get any help in the process. Women are naturally more likely to be open about sharing feelings and attitudes than men, who, if they choose to share at all, are more likely to engage in directed problem solving. As has often been said, if your work life, home life, or love life are troubled, you are going to be feeling unhappy and out of sorts, or perhaps angry and confused or some uncomfortable variant thereof. If any two of the major life areas are involved, then the situation is probably becoming intense enough to warrant serious concern or worry. If three of the four areas are involved, and especially for some length of time, then one is probably approaching a serious need for help. When I was consulting as an astrological analyst with a clinical psychologist, the clients for whom she usually requested evaluation, typically had all four major areas of life tied together in a pattern of conflict and crisis that astrologers call a Grand Cross—the most difficult one. It was really challenging for me to think of what to say or do that might have been helpful for those troubled people.

Most of the clients or people seeking orientation and advice (or however they might characterize themselves) from an astrologer are not usually so troubled. Such a person might have a feeling that life has suddenly changed or become more difficult, compared to earlier or easier times; that there is a feeling of starting over and a need to gain new perspective on the transition. If this state of affairs were to lead to calling an astrologer for consultation, he or she would then prepare charts and make an appointment for an initial session or “reading” lasting perhaps an hour and a half or so. Many if not most astrology clients, for better or worse, will only expect to meet for a single such session. The good news is they may only need that one time to sample the waters, gain the insight or try for a breakthrough and are then satisfied (or maybe dissatisfied—doing Astrology is not so easy as the one session meeting might suggest). The bad news is that a single session only begins to do justice to anyone’s complex life situation and only gives a competent, sympathetic analyst that one time to get it all right; whereas, even one more session could probably result in so much richer an understanding and validation, with resolution and feelings of completion for both (ah, but the insurance coverage …).

Yet the advantage to an astrology reading is that a long series of weekly or monthly high-stakes, high-cost (and boring?) meetings are not necessary unless the client has the interest and means to pursue such a personal goal. It’s not that astrological technique is lacking for in-depth analysis. Those doing astrology often use it as a kind of daily meditation for themselves, pursuing it in great detail with all sorts of ideas and technical analysis with many kinds of charts. In some ways the main problem with astrology is that there are so many novel ideas and so much diverse material with fewer settled results—and a lot of self-starters seeking professional results (and compensation). Here the critique of astrologers as enthusiastic amateurs is often closer to the mark—more professional development is often needed and not easy to find—but as with all the “helping professions,” sincere efforts for a calling are merely the first step.

For the practitioner of any discipline, one’s own lived experience is the laboratory for research and development … and eventually enlightenment, in an effort to cultivate and evaluate various approaches such as one finds in astrology. One of my working aphorisms is, “In astrology it’s all about individuality…” Since everyone is unique and complex to an almost unimaginable degree, it might seem that there isn’t any “normal solution” of the usual psychological or sociological sort that really applies broadly to groups or classes of people. There are nonetheless discernable patterns of selfhood and individuality that are evident to all who have pursued the will-of-the-wisp personality dimension, which in Astrology is keyed to timing of signs, planets and aspects as abstracted in various kinds of charts, each having a particular rationale, and, as it has turned out for me, the most appropriate and useful way to model the intricacies of individuated selfhood … is Astrology, the ancient candidate.

So, Astrology is neither standard science, conventional religion nor clinical psychotherapy, yet is related to all of them in certain obvious and subtle ways because it is a general systems theory of the nature of human individuality. At its best and in its own way what it must also address is spiritual awareness and practice, however one may think of it. My favorite way of characterizing Astrology as having a spiritual orientation, is in the role of its practitioners as “peace makers.” To some appreciable degree Astrologers must first become successful in overcoming the ordinary anger, fear, resentment, harmful attitudes and petty grievances with those whom they have personally had problems in ordinary life before they can succeed in greater measure with and for others in reading the great archetypes of the heavens—the Sun, Moon and planets circling in the sky. It is a great responsibility to counsel someone about serious issues, claiming the authority of the heavenly spheres, and one capable of generating significant negative karma if negligent—as most astrologers would probably concede. This would, of course, include knowingly making use of Astrology for unfair personal advantage, or perhaps trying to provide oneself with a luxurious lifestyle without having honed the skills, paid the dues and earned the success (if pursuit of luxury for self is ever appropriate for one consciously pursuing a spiritual goal). Apprenticeship begins as it may, and the world will not delay in offering its often critical response. I recently heard a provocative definition of “spiritual” as possibly everything else in life besides making money. Ah, the terrifying straits of dualistic over-simplification!

Finally, there are some strongly motivated people whose attitude towards Astrology I usually refer to as “instant experts,” who typically are on a crusade to discredit Astrology in any way possible—evidently feeling it is so obviously impossible, they can’t allow themselves to stand by without making a serious challenge to anyone whispering it aloud. There is a famous statement, signed by more than a hundred prominent scientists—including numerous Nobel Laureates—advising that Astrology is totally false and completely without value. Part of the problem here is that these luminaries were probably thinking of Sun Sign Astrology and are really unaware that they are swinging at a straw man. These accomplished members of the establishment are obviously upset about something, but their own achievement is undermined by feeling obliged to scapegoat Astrology. The impressive success of the physical sciences in the modern world over the last few centuries has led to what can probably only be called an unfortunate inflation or even arrogance on the part of many otherwise highly-esteemed scientific thinkers and mentors in our culture at present. The irony is that virtually not a single one of these most talented modern scientific investigators, who in many cases are eccentric geniuses, has any more idea of what astrology is really about than the average person reading a newspaper.

Occasionally, I enjoy interacting with “scientific skeptics” (if they remain civil). When questioned about why science has not yet integrated the extraordinary phenomenon of consciousness into its worldview, the good-natured science apologist often takes on the hurt look of the salesperson in the department store who stocks an enormous inventory of interesting and unusual goods, but who will try to switch you to anything on the rack if he doesn’t have the plain beige wool v-neck sweater you came in to ask for. This is one of the big philosophical questions, of course, that can lead into a darker epistemological labyrinth. As one reasonably familiar with science and scientists, the main problem, I have often felt is that, in spite of having officially adapted to a quantum-based reality, the world of classical billiard ball causality still predominates intuitively and informally among most scientists, who, though bright and tenacious, may not in general be so imaginative outside their area of interest or professional field of studies. So it often comes down to the matter of having a too-restricted theory of causality in a too-limited time frame that is, nonetheless, believed to be universally applicable. It is this naïve belief in a “mono-materialism” void of subjective consciousness that leads to the most blatant imbalances and contradictions. But in all fairness, there are also many brilliant scientists and technologists today who decry the chilling and dismal skeptical attitude that opinion makers among older generations often found necessary in cultivating the crop of impartial empirical scientific investigation—now often so notably lacking.

So skeptics are welcome, or should be, like anyone else at the astrology table if they are sincere and willing to communicate earnestly on the issues as they see them. They probably won’t be convinced even if they are surprised or impressed because there are yet so few genuine reinforcing guideposts in the professional mainstream world for anything like Astrology. Yet modern opinion polls seem to consistently show that a great many people “believe in” Astrology—to the great consternation of the skeptics, and especially the resentment of the scientific skeptics, who loudly protest that any money collected or granted, should be used to support “real science.” Evidently more money is spent on Astrology than on academic Astronomy—this is often the rub.

But I always caution anyone that belief in Astrology is of very little value—it was the Greeks who gave Astrology its rationalistic base just as they did the other arts and sciences. The ultimate goal is enlightenment; understanding with integration of heart and mind allowing creative response of the intuition, whether expressed through the feelings or the mind. There are no ex-Astrologers as there are ex-Catholics though there are lots of people who just gave up somewhere along the way because of the complexity of the study in finding and making intelligent use of genuine astrological principles. Of course the relentless and perhaps inevitable twitting by skeptics, both lowbrow and highbrow, adds to the tension and confusion. But at this stage, the advocates of Astrology still have the burden of making their case in a long and winding road ahead.

4. When is a good time to have an astrology reading?

The ruling planet of Astrology is the magical and amazing … what some of us now call Prometheus, formerly Uranus; yes, we have all heard the jokes of questionable taste relating to this curious name Uranus which, as astrologers say, “rules” the unusual, the walk on the wild side, particularly humor from the ordinary scatological to the highly-refined famous “dry” variety as well as the bizarre world of off-beat sexuality. This is one unusual planetary nature that often brings surprise and is almost never limited by ordinary schedules and routines. So, the most natural time to arrange for a visit to an astrologer is in the moment of insight or inspiration when suddenly one realizes that Astrology just might have something to offer that all of the other somewhat ordinary or stuffy possibilities don’t or haven’t. Of course there is always the backdrop of ordinary interests and concerns that makes the extraordinary what it is by contrast, and it is usually these that must be considered for inclusion in the stream of consciousness that eventually leads to the idea of visiting an astrologer—unless you just happen to be a Promethean/ Uranian type yourself—then Astrology may appeal first.

The best time for visiting a serious, or perhaps qualified, astrology practitioner if you can find one—or re-visiting for an astrological tune-up—is ideally around the time of one’s birthday. This is the annual beginning of the “individualized” New Year for each person. The reason we have a birthday party at this time is the traditional belief that if you have a great time on your birthday, you are more likely to have a great year too! This is the kind of magical thinking that astrology haters love to hate. Today we might think of it as a hopeful or playful, child-like expectation—but ah, the power of imprinting (!), even if it can be overrated in favor of rational intelligent choices. Actually, there is a basic astrological idea that is operative here and that also forms the rationale for Progressions, one of the most important techniques used in Astrology; i.e., that a day is “equal to” a year since they both represent cyclic totalities in their own domain, only at different scales. One’s birthday is actually a rather sensitive and often intense time as the anniversary of the original birth trauma is re-enacted at some level, usually subconsciously. If anyone doubts that birthing, among the most cherished or even sentimental remembrances, is indeed traumatic, see the work of contemporary psychedelic psychologist Stanislaus Grof … who has also become a practitioner of Astrology.

As noted, one is usually mindful of something that seems particularly important in precipitating action, or often a driving emotional situation: falling in love—or not finding love for what seems like a long time; having a troubling relationship and feeling like a change is in order; wondering about making a radical change like moving across country for a new job, or to return to an early home environment; feeling restless but not knowing why; the distress of having to deal with aging parents; and many other common and uncommon circumstances that one probably isn’t inclined to bring to a more drawn-out, didactic therapy, or taken to church or friends (or that one has already done so but without helpful resolution). One typically feels worried, anxious, concerned, etc; but also perhaps longing for creative release in wanting to brainstorm with someone for new insights—or not wanting to miss what intuitively feels like a great opportunity about to be recognized and understood. One might also be on the rebound from other counselors, feeling that the possibly conventional advice one has been getting is too doctrinaire or pedestrian. Often it is a deeply personal or spiritual issue that one would only want to discuss with someone new who does not harbor any of the prejudices that friends and family would be inclined to have but does not yet seem appropriate or disturbing enough for formal therapy. Any of this may call for playing the astrology wild card.

For some, what it often comes down to is that one feels an approaching crossroads in one’s life that appears to require a decisive choice but yet remains undecidable by any ordinarily-known means. I, myself, in these circumstances, sometimes resort to casting the I Ching, the ancient Chinese oracle that has amazed several generations of Western metaphysical investigators. But, as an avid investigator and practitioner of Astrology, I am most comfortable afterwards in a meditative reflection on the patterns of astrological symbols, the timing of circumstances in the current situation. Out of this nearly always comes some useful idea, insight or (perhaps later) improbable synchronicity that leads to the next step. Solving the puzzle then becomes a matter of integrating the consequent increasing feeling of confidence with reality checks, knowing what has come before—all this in relation to the many learned ways of navigating through life that one has acquired from the twists and turns of meaningful and/or painful experiences. Often I know that I have reached this point when I can feel that I am beginning to smile. (Am I a behaviorist, after all? {;-).

5. What are the practical details for having an astrological consultation?

One can spend quite a long time—years and stages of life—considering whether it would be worthwhile to visit an astrologer and hear an interpretation of one’s chart(s), but when the time comes, if it ever does, all you need to know or find out is fairly simple: your time of birth. The rest you already know: your birthday and the place where you were born. But getting a time of birth can be tricky in some areas of the country, particularly near time zone transitions. In states such as Indiana it was just chaos; nearly every little town had local ordinances which dictated whether Eastern or Central time would be officially kept (and it changed fairly often with lax record keeping). We are much more fortunate in California where I have lived now for more than fifty years—all Pacific Standard Time with reasonably uniform date transitions for Daylight savings for the whole state. This makes a hospital inquiry to get a birth time (which must be recorded by law on a birth certificate) much more likely to yield a correct result. Most people already have a copy of their birth certificate buried in their cache of important papers (or their mother does), and it is often just a matter of shuffling storage bins for a few minutes to get the all-important document to begin the Astrology promenade.

It is a subject of dispute among astrologers how accurate the birth time must be to yield a correct reading. Birth certificate times are generally considered valid on their face, even thought there is some slight uncertainty here as well if accuracy to the minute is desired—and this is the ideal. As for accurate birth time recording, delivery rooms are typically intense and busy scenes known to often record the time of first breath later from memory—as an afterthought. Initially, I just hope that the birth certificate time, as given, is the accurate time of first breath and if it is recorded to a particular odd minute rather than the quarter hour, I feel lucky.

The need for having an accurate birth time is actually more complicated, even if there is a birth certificate because of all the modern interventions into the natural birthing process such as induced labor, C-section delivery, use of forceps, and perhaps other more “high tech” interventions into the natural birthing process. The Gauquelin correlations held for people who had natural births, not induced births. The assumption traditionally made by Astrology is that the fetus knows when its “right time” to be born arrives.

So, we must be slightly skeptical of any given birth time we are given until the chart is “calibrated” (a good term I use from my days of working on space satellite instruments), that is, until it is proven that all the symbolic pattern of the planets, signs, houses and aspects really fit the timing of the person’s life, at least for some memorable or well-known events. For example, the rising sign or ascendant of the natal chart will typically give a person a “certain look” that an experienced astrologer will usually be able to see; but sometimes not—there is huge variability in human populations, even if there are also very common features. These impressions are subtle and not easy to describe but such characteristics as the unmistakable bright eyes of the air signs, particularly Aquarius, are nearly always telling (Gemini also has a kind of bright-eyes look but with a more youthful tinge; and Libra with a more obviously handsome or pretty appearance). There is an extended and more systematic approach to verification of the birth time, going backwards from major life events, called “rectification,” but it is yet one of the most complex and controversial issues within astrological circles

My own unique approach to resolving the need for accurate birth information, one involving what I hope will be my research contribution to astrology technique and theory, is the additional idea of a “soul-entry time,” which does not coincide with the first breath time but may precede or follow it by as much as twelve hours or so. The assumption is that the time of entry of the metaphysical soul into the physical body is the other timing element that astrologers can use to yield a greater depth of astrological interpretation, but as one might well imagine, this time is not recorded anywhere and must be determined by intuitive means. This might be the time returned by a valid rectification if one can be done, but this is still an advanced topic in need of more research and study. However one may feel about it, true “objective methods” (read, billiard-ball causality) are in principle not available for this timing element. But all is not lost—there is still much to be learned even if the time is not exactly right because not everything in the sky is so fast moving as the rotation of the earth (whence comes the Ascendant or rising sign) and dependent on a highly-accurate birth time! But if, for whatever reason, there is no birth time of day at all to start from, then we still have something better than Sun Sign Astrology, but the real star magic show cannot come out of the shadows until the first breath time is established to within the quarter hour. As a long-time sensitive or adept at dowsing for water and other things underground or hidden, I can also use pendulum dowsing to acquire a birth time as a final resort if there are no other options.

It seems fairly amazing that astrologers working B.C. (before computers)—particularly in earlier centuries when there were no mechanical or electrical clocks, and accurate planetary positions were difficult or impossible to determine … could have succeeded with Astrology, really, in any way at all (!). At least modern astrologers have the benefit of reasonably accurate ephemerides to be used with the computing power of the modern desktop or laptop. The contemporary astrologer has been forced to become a computer professional, and indeed the computer is the essential tool for doing the calculations, preparing the chart graphics, printing the charts and finally printing the typeset report that typically accompanies a reading, which are all presented at the time of the consultation. All this symbolism fits so well with our notion of Aquarius: astrology itself, one of the most Promethean/ Uranian of activities, electricity and electronic computation (it is electricity, the “magnetic fluid” rather than ordinary water that the Water Bearer so often associated with the Sign Aquarius, is actually dispensing). One must be quick to note that for the Aquarian ideal, it is individuality, not as a solo act by itself (that would rather be Leo, the complementary opposite of Aquarius) but as experienced among and supported by equals in an inclusive group process of some kind (like science or democracy). This then becomes the spiritual ideal of brotherhood so often associated with the “Age of Aquarius.” But I digress…

If possible, the initial meeting would normally occur at the office of the analyst or on neutral territory rather than on the premises of the client. Unfortunately meetings at cafes and restaurants are usually less than optimal because of noise and distractions. I usually discourage the presence of third parties, such as friends and spouses, unless the partner in the primary relationship or some close family member is particularly insistent and the client also appears to favor this arrangement. But even then it is probably best to have the initial meeting be private and confidential, bringing in even close personal associations only at a later time. I attempt to have the client share in making whatever minor decisions remain, such as whether to tape the session or not (some clients are too self-conscious if being recorded). Of course live video session recording is also available if anyone wishes on-camera documentation.

Perhaps the next practical question that arises in the mind of the person seeking a reading is the nature of the attitude or demeanor that they should hold as the reading begins; whether, for example they should remain quiet and passive or engaging and conversational, etc. Here the rule of natural inclination would seem most appropriate, and that can vary a good deal. Some people will be nervous, others excited and expectant, still others skeptical or suspicious, not wanting to reveal too much that could tip off a wily interpreter, etc. I usually advise clients that I will begin with a kind of verbal portrait of them elicited from just the chart without being told much in the way of factual detail. As time goes on I will begin to notice (I hope) from subtle or not-so-subtle cues whether I am beginning to get a reasonably “good fit.” I then tell the person that when they are becoming comfortable with the interaction, they are welcome to add whatever comments or reactions they might have, and then increasingly as we arrive at the final third of the session, they will naturally begin to take over and direct the process with questions, comments and generally have time to explore what they mainly came to inquire about.

6. Debriefing—what to make of an astrological reading afterwards.

Recently someone, for whom I had expected to prepare astrology charts for a reading (at the behest of a third person), asked me what is the purpose of doing an astrology reading. It was a fair question, but because of known differences between her general outlook (caring, creative and intelligent with strong traditional Christian religious overtones) and my own (agent for a diverse New Age mystical/ metaphysical reckoning), I found myself having to seriously stop and ponder this before attempting an answer. For most people coming to an astrology reading, the question wouldn’t come up in this way because of numerous mutually-shared assumptions: one would expect to hear a presentation about timing of current major circumstances and sufficient discussion for insight, problem solving, and generally getting a greater sense of confirmation that one’s life pattern is sufficiently “on schedule” and not just the random happenstance that people so often fear may be the case.

One reason astrologers have been tempted to stray from the path of honesty and righteousness is that they eventually learn that relatively few clients will ever want to hear a forecast for difficult times—it can be too unsettling if one is already worried. Most want to hear of hopeful expectations and easier times, which is natural enough, even if they are feeling confident. I often have to ask myself, “Would this person really want to know the truth?” Would it really be better to know the unvarnished truth—given the circumstances—or not? How likely am I to be right that it will actually be—or feel like—a difficult time that they are going to experience? It is here that the technique of the imaginative “as if” mode can be quite valuable. Since there is no absolute way to know the future (as I have argued, even assuming correct use of astrological principles), one must proceed as if a particular circumstance might occur and imagine or visualize what it would be like rather than “believing” or being “skeptical” that such a circumstance will occur. The goal, after all, given the philosophical premise of a spectrum of human freedom of choice on at least some actions, is to have an insight that can make a better choice possible when the time of decision arrives.

Herein lies the need for the astrologer to be able to point out a clearly perceived difficulty but in a way that is effectively tailored for the psychological set of the person, providing guidance and support for envisioning the circumstance appropriately or imaginatively. This is where judgment, experience and compassion enter in, or even a prayerful attitude as for my woman friend, so that one is able to achieve the best balance of positive expectations with yet realistic attitudes. This situation of seeing an approaching difficult symbolic chart pattern that consensus and experience have shown to be demanding and difficult is a hard call, and one that can be stressful with (and for) a client who already appears to be in a weakened condition. I have to admit that I have not always succeeded in handling this situation as well as I would have liked, but if the practitioner is naturally skilled and caring or has made efforts through training to acquire such sensitivity, he will be able to offer help around the troubling issue provided by the context of the astrology chart itself, which in the hands of a gifted interpreter, is an amazing tool of fine detail as well as visionary wholeness.

Of course, there is no way to know beforehand what a person’s life circumstance will be until the chart calculations are made and the situation examined, but awareness leading to insightful problem-solving should always be the expectation. I approach these dilemmas with the personal belief that, in general, if foreknowledge is possible, it is better to know than not know—an attitude not shared by everyone. But perhaps people who become astrology clients are also biased with the desire to know the probable future and are well-served by this expectation. It is interesting to have a discussion from time to time with someone who tells me they don’t want to know the future even if it is knowable, and I find such an attitude reasonable and acceptable—even sophisticated—if a bit lacking in the curiosity gene.

So I imagined that the situation with this rather lovely and genuinely sincere pious woman, who was inquiring of me as to the purpose for doing an astrology chart reading, might have been informed by her religious-minded social circle that astrology is of some questionable merit (or maybe “the work of the devil” as many church people were once led to believe by their pastors and priests). And later, when the social occasion arose for me to finally make a response (still feeling more unsure of myself than I would have liked), I attempted to state that this time would be “just for her” when, perhaps not unlike pastoral counseling with somewhat different assumptions and principles, I would offer an interpretation of the pattern of symbols and planetary placements and motions for her that would probably run parallel to events in her life which she might be willing to share, and which I hoped would be interesting and helpful—or perhaps amusing—allowing fresh insights to emerge about her goals, attitudes and feelings. I was aware at the time that I might be attempting to put too positive a spin on my expectation—not entirely unjustified—but it really can be rather complicated to try to have a serious discussion for reaching a commonality with someone who really does have very different fundamental beliefs, however well-intentioned the participants may be.

The uncertainty I was feeling, of course, was related to issues of habituated religious belief and whether I should attempt to enter this arena at all or try to avoid these thorny topics unless she made inquiry leading in that direction. I usually do attempt to provide some of the metaphysical accompaniment at least to show the logic of certain ideas such as acceptance of the individual soul’s evolution through past lives in both male and female physical bodies (gender-equality in the reincarnation scheme), evidence that everyone has what are called guides or “guardian angels” that attempt to help them as a matter of course in their lives (often called “ancestors” in traditional cultures), evidence that the Grand Cycle of the Ages of about 26,000 years (the Precession phenomenon) lends itself naturally to historical understanding, including the current transition from the Age of Pisces into the Age of Aquarius. It’s a lot for anyone with traditional Christian Bible beliefs (or anyone else who hasn’t heard something about these “New Age” ideas) to fathom.

It is just this kind of “far out” philosophizing that social, political and religious fundamentalists and conservatives often competitively oppose, trying to have them included in the shallow, disposable category of “pop culture.” There really is a cultural conflict here with no easy way to smooth it over. These exciting new metaphysical ideas, of which modern Astrology partakes, began to appear late in the Nineteenth Century, interestingly enough, at about the same time the “Death of God” movement in European theological centers. My own personal belief is that much of the current critical revisioning of the historical Biblical accounts that are being made all over the Western World, will eventually be of great value, and that modern people, beginning from about the time of the Enlightenment, have and will have had, a fundamental need for thoughtful understanding rather than acceptance of creedal belief as evidence of faith and spirituality, as has appropriately been the case over the last couple thousand years during the Age of Pisces, and that eventually such ideas will merge with the Western Christian mainstream as a major rebirth of western spirituality. Well, it’s looking a bit darker than expected in the middle of the second decade of Century twenty-one, but The Creation appears not to be in a hurry.

I still can’t tell how well this much-anticipated astrological reading for my Christian lady friend went because it didn’t happen, and I still don’t know whether she was ever positively inclined or merely felt she was being tempted to step off the straight and narrow path that had seemed to serve her so well. In retrospect I feel that it didn’t greatly matter to either of us because our feelings of conviviality were pleasant and satisfying for a time—but didn’t have a convergence along lines of comparative belief. Eventually, we may talk about this, and at some point she may even read this copy herself (written in 2002, but now very unlikely fifteen years later). As a thoughtful and busy person I know she has been seriously reflecting on all these “ten thousand things,” and this is the bona fide goal of philosophizing and teaching in any event.

After an astrology session (if it does happen!), the client will have a certain intuitive sense whether the session was of much value—particularly relative to the original motivation that led to the inquiry and the visit. This feeling is important and will probably remain over time. One might have been elated; one might have been disappointed; or sobered, strengthened, mystified, confused, etc. But above all, one should feel that someone not previously known was able to offer an understanding and appreciation which easily transcended the normal limitations of ordinary knowledge and awareness; a highly personal interaction was attained, gaining the skilled counsel of an advocate just as one would expect from contacting any capable professional. If this has happened, then it will feel valuable in and of itself—even if all the desired solutions weren’t discovered in the short span of the consultation. The outcome isn’t always so sanguine and positive, of course, and there is no recognized astrology complaint bureau to contact for a poor or mediocre showing. One must presumably be satisfied with disseminating whatever evaluation or letter writing (emails!) and the like one feels is justified. The usual legal remedies remain for outrageous or criminal behavior (I have heard of a few strange law suits being brought, but it’s hard to tell if they are only imaginative urban legends).

The question of what is an appropriate fee for doing an astrological consultation is a sensitive one for many practitioners and clients—as perhaps it should be. To the extent that astrology is a spiritual practice, the reading should be offered freely with the expectation that one will receive whatever is to be the recompense in the fullness of time (and not necessarily during the session—or even in the current lifetime!). This would be particularly appropriate in the situation where the one making inquiry is having a serious financial shortfall (not uncommon, even in the richest country in the world, and also something that can often be seen in the chart as well). This is the pro bono case. It is, and should feel, awkward to take money from someone who is seriously in need of his or her current resources for basic needs. I have personally always felt that astrological practitioners should not be entirely dependent for their livelihood on collecting fees for astrological services; in fact and in principle one should be able to support oneself by performing other “ordinary” work. Of course it is entirely appropriate to accept remuneration from any client who feels satisfied with what has transpired in a reading, whether by set fee (which should be announced in some way beforehand) or on some kind of “sliding scale.” I am not philosophically opposed to accumulation of personal wealth by anyone … up to a point—it has its own proper share of countervailing problems and responsibilities—but I would extend it as a warning to any potential client who might be considering a visit to an astrologer to inquire about the fee, and if it is over, say, $150 per hour, to be cautious if you’re not in the upper, say 15% income bracket and expect to pay a handsome fee for the best services money can buy as an investment gamble. It can be difficult to place a dollar value on professional services but if what seems like an unseemly high fee is sprung unannounced at the end of a session, it should be questioned. If one really is interested in predicting market movements or the like, then one would need to find an astrological specialist who is also trained in economics, etc., just as with doctors and lawyers, and so compensation for consultants in those areas would rule.

Such an unexpected or seemingly unfair billing can even spoil whatever of positive value might have transpired. Again, my personal feeling is that the fee should be the outcome of an agreement reached after the first session as a warranty, but this can be a stressful interaction for many clients as well as those offering services. The main reason for the financial caution is the standard ethical one, but the financial behavior of astrologers needs to be judicious because there is still significant public perception that astrology is often fraudulent—billed time motivated by a cynical desire for financial gain. I believe that this is largely a projection on the part of suspicious bystanders harried by too many commercial attitudes and deceptive offers. However, there are some number of such people having this motivation to “cash in” without any of the skills of a bona fide practitioner. These are the frauds we have been warned about, and we should act cautiously if they are encountered. One hopes that there aren’t too many such cynical operators. To my surprise I have never knowingly detected such a person myself even though I expected I would find more than a few. There are mysterious sounding astrology ads in certain pulp magazines where such individuals could probably be found if one were attempting to do research …

Sometimes it will take a while, even years, to realize whether a reading was of significant value or whether it missed the mark. I can remember sessions with clients when I had to look deeply for answers that I knew would not be welcome at the time, but years later some of these same people have told me that certain situations happened fairly closely to what I had anticipated, and even though they were initially disappointed, later they were glad to have had some preparation for what they actually had to face.

If, after a session that wasn’t felt by the client to “connect” or be impressive in any major way, such a person is likely to be disappointed or remain skeptical. This is one extreme, and one hears such stories. The other extreme is to be so overwhelmed and amazed by what one has heard that it seems like all of one’s previous thinking might have been weak or erroneous. People doing astrology consultations are, of course, only human, and are subject to inflations, depressions, and off-balance days like everyone else, and the client should probably say something to this effect if it seems obviously so (not everyone would feel justified at the time but later feedback might be appropriate).

One must also resist becoming a converted “true believer” that everything will happen as presented or suggested. Many clients feel that an expert astrologer should provide them a full solution, but cautious verification of expectations that may or may not be right is always appropriate; the experience, even if apparently wrong, can turn out to be yet another stimulus or prod to help one make the effort required for successful issue resolution—the preferred outcome in any event. I have maintained that astrology symbolism by itself cannot predict future events with specific detail through all the permutations of life’s many choices, but some version of the general event-timing framework should remain recognizable and comprehensible by the client in the aftermath—as it often dramatically or usefully does. The role of the astrologer is not to usurp the decision-making power of the client or consultee, but rather to intelligently and sensitively strengthen it with reference to the decoded, synchronized timing of our local solar system clock, blended with the analyst’s best experienced expectations. Unavoidably, young astrologers, like young physicians, have a experience handicap to overcome in their formative years …

In terms of the increasingly rationalist scientific trend in contemporary education and culture, with its expectation for reliance on the buzzword of “critical thinking” (hidden meaning: “Do it our way.”) within the confines of propriety and known physical causality in conducting our lives, the astrological hypothesis appears to be an irritating anachronism. But if you are one of those in the privileged group who discover this surprising master key to the timing of many of life’s major events and adventures—going far beyond the pedestrian, random statistical expectation of standard science or the pious suspicions of fundamentalist true believers—be patient with all the “instant experts” who are sure Astrology can only be a weird and dangerous fraud. Hopefully, bad astrology will be recognizable as merely a banal and dull spinning, while the best that astrology has to offer will emerge as valuable and privileged information, a virtual “real time” Universe operating system provided by Higher Management for those of us Earthumans who are willing to take a tour … “outside the box.”

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[First drafted 2002, updated 2010, final edits 11-27-2017]