Beyond Astrology

Dear Friend and Reader:

Next week, Planet Waves plans to provide continuous coverage of the United Astrology Conference (UAC) in New Orleans. Most of what we offer will be on our audio channel, Planet Waves FM. I will be interviewing the most interesting people I can round up and put on the air, in one-on-one conversations and roundtable-type discussions.

We’re trying to figure out where this photo comes from. It’s all over the Internet as free wallpaper. It’s the crescent Earth from space, with the Sun angular behind it — though it may be a composite.

I will send out a series of mailings to remind you of what we’re doing. I anticipate conference coverage to begin Wednesday evening.

UAC is a collaborative venture between four different organizations: AFAN (Association for Astrological Networking), ISAR (International Society for Astrological Research), NCGR(National Council for Geocosmic Research, Inc.) and CVA (the Council of Vedic Astrology). It’s not an annual conference — it’s a big-number production that happens about once every four years. I’m guessing that this year’s conference will be attended by about 1,500 people. That’s more than enough to get some energy moving. The event seems to have started as the United Astrology Congress in the mid-1980s.

If you’re planning to be at the conference, don’t forget to stop by and visit our table. We’ll figure out a way to make it visible (we have Planet Waves FM banners). Note that we’ve been writing about aspects of the conference for weeks, which you can review on our UAC page.

Astrology conferences can be fun and educational, even if they are a bit overwhelming for some people at times. I know many astrologers who have learned a lot traveling the conference circuit, attending those 75-minute lectures and panels. There is a seemingly endless diversity of subject matter. What we don’t see is what’s missing, including topics and teaching modalities.

I come from an alternative educational background. The high school I attended was based on the philosophy of John Dewey, which was rich in participatory modes of learning, learning through experience and students educating one another. This is how to create an integrated learning process, making the most of the many minds who are gathered around the same theme or subject. Every day at school was interesting and different from the prior one.

Astrology draws on knowledge from many different fields, including physics and astronomy. This astrolabe — which is a tool for making astronomical calculations — was crafted in the 15th century by the French instrument-maker Jean Fusoris (ca. 1365-1436).

Astrology is an unusual branch of knowledge in that doing it well requires a person to draw upon so many different fields. To name a few, in addition to astrology itself, we have to know about: astronomy, psychology, counseling, healing, metaphysics, some mathematics (less, now that there are computers), mythology, current events, history, relationships, sexuality and medicine. You would think that might take 20 years in a Greek academy.

To do astrology well, you can’t just know about these things — it’s necessary to integrate them into one another to put them into practical use. Speaking of practical, I had been going to conferences since 1995 and had never noticed a class focused on communications. After several years of lobbying the community, I was offered space to teach a writing class (sponsored by AFAN), which will be followed up by an Internet marketing/networking class taught by Donna Woodwell. AFAN is also sponsoring a media and public relations panel. These are excellent steps in the right direction.

While we’re on the topic, I would like to make a few suggestions for how conferences might contribute to better astrological education. I propose the following programs or concepts, which could be taught in a diversity of direct participation and workshop formats. It’s important to have the right format for the right kind of study. Some things work fine as lectures; others require a more roundtable or seminar-style approach.

Invite non-astrologer therapists to talk 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.

Astrology needs innovators of therapy to help us figure out how to best work with people. This is Fritz Perls, one of the creators of Gestalt therapy, working in group process, ca 1970s. Perhaps it’s my background with Gestalt therapy, but I have always thought of the astrology chart and especially transits resonating with the immediacy and holistic quality of this modality.

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.

I nominate Tristan Taormino to be the first sex education keynote speaker for the astrology community. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wesleyan, the niece of Thomas Pynchon, and a fantastic, enlightened sex education presenter. Publicity photo.

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.

Dr. Brian Marsden was director of the Minor Planet Center and helped out astrology many times, providing the first ephemeris of Chiron to astrologer Zane Stein. Marsden died in 2010. Photo by Harold Dorwin.

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.

Data collection and verification has gone downhill since we lost the magnificent Lois Rodden. Astrology needs to refocus its efforts on data collection, particularly of younger celebrities. Photo from Lois’s page on the Astrologer’s Memorial.

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.

Astrology is part of the natural order of life, and could be considered a branch of environmental study. Astrologers would benefit from deepening their knowledge of earthy nature, and also understanding the impact of toxins on the environment. Photo by Eric.

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.

Eric Francis

Friday, May 18, 2012. Weekly Horoscope #904 | Eric’s Zodiac Sign Descriptions

Last Taurus Birthdays for 2012

If your birthday is in the vicinity, you’re born with the Sun in late Taurus, and are being blessed by a conjunction from Jupiter in your sign. It’s time to open up to positive energy — and more money — flowing into your life. Yet there is another question, which is what you would do with more resources if you had them available to you. You’re approaching a time of deep questions about your priorities, your values and in particular, how you feel about yourself. Money will factor into this equation, though it’s a reflection of something much more significant (and this influences everyone born under the sign Taurus) — which is how you feel about yourself. To the extent that you’ve had mixed feelings or experienced a kind of inner conflict that I’ve seen in many Taureans I’ve been close to, you now have a beautiful opportunity to work this out. Go back through your life and look at the decisions you’ve made, and ask yourself this question: what would I have done if I truly felt good about myself? This is your starting point for the next four seasons. You can learn more from the Taurus birthday reading, which is done using both astrology and tarot.

Gemini Birthdays This Week

The Sun enters your sign on Sunday, followed within hours by a powerful eclipse of the Sun. It’s pretty special (by that I mean rare) to have a solar eclipse the day that the Sun changes signs, though that’s just one factor pointing to one of the most unusual years of your life. In a sense you are going through a total reorientation, which will influence every layer of your being. What you experience over the next few weeks is just a taste of what is to come, though everything will flow from the events of your birthday season this year, which include the Venus transit of the Sun. You could say that your whole life has led to this moment — or looked at another way, 2012 represents one of the most distinct ‘before and after’ points you’ve ever encountered. In exploring the possibilities, I suggest you look back at 2004 and ask yourself what was going on then — what you initiated, what changes you made, what goals you set for yourself. How have things worked out so far? Are those goals still valid? Collect the ones that still are, assess them carefully in light of what you’ve been through, and get ready to be honest with yourself about what you now want. Your astrology is so strong right now that there’s little that could stop you. Note, I will have your Gemini birthday reading, complete with Tarot, sometime soon.

Aries (March 20-April 19) — Keep your focus on service. That seems to be what you’re called to do at this point, despite your restlessness and your urge to focus on your own needs, as opposed to those of your circumstances. You do seem to be figuring out that there’s a direct relationship between the two — that, in a sense, you are your circumstances and they are you. If that’s true, the only thing that matters is that you’re actively participating in something that’s creative, productive or focused on healing. As long as you do that, it will be about you, and you will learn and benefit. It does seem that for the foreseeable future you’re destined to overcome the reputed Aries trait of being good at starting things and less adept at finishing them. To facilitate that, I suggest you make a list of everything already started that needs to be completed, and make a goal of accomplishing those things before July 1.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — It’s as if you’re split between two different existences right now — one in which you feel the emotional challenges and darkness that you want to work through, and another in which you can feel and experience your potential. I suggest you allow those two seemingly separate worlds to coexist, and feel the tension that creates. Hold open the space between them. Don’t let the two sides of the equation mush into one nondescript morass. If you can do that, you’ll see that you have a choice in the matter of how to experience your existence — and there is more in this choice than you may recognize. For example, emotional challenges almost always relate to the past. What role does the past play in what you’re doing now? Expressing your potential is about making contact with yourself, and that can only happen in this very moment. What is stopping you? Don’t worry about how to resolve this issue. I suggest you work with the various dichotomies as long as you can.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — The Sun enters your sign on Sunday with some real fanfare — a solar eclipse on the very first day it’s there. This is hinting at a year of rapid advancement and many changes. While it’s too early to make specific plans, you can help by getting clear with yourself what you want. Once you know that, you will have a basis for making every other decision. Remember your desires don’t have to be ‘finalized’ in any way — you just need to be aware that you want some things and you don’t want some others. Other factors indicate that any secrets you’ve been keeping from yourself are about to come out in the wash. Those could include what you really want, versus what you thought you wanted; how you really feel, versus how you thought you felt; and ideas that might have occurred to you but that didn’t get a second thought. Self-knowledge is your best friend right now. Collect what you learn over the next few days — it will soon come in handy.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Sunday’s solar eclipse will help you let go of the negative expectations that have dragged you down for so long. I realize that life is not exactly a walk in the park these days, with all the stresses we face and far too much uncertainty, confusion and stupidity in the society of which we’re part. Yet you can support your own cause by allowing your fears and insecurities to be drained out of your psyche, as this eclipse suggests they can be. If you want to facilitate the process, do your best to relax. For now, all you need to do is allow. At least for the next few days, ease off on the pressure to achieve. If you have to do anything, do it in the most relaxed way possible, and when you can, gradually recognize that the things that have been sources of anxiety in the past don’t have to exist today. Practice being bigger than them, which should be easy, because you are.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — You don’t have to be anyone you’re not. That’s the beauty of this moment. Who you are is not only adequate — it’s amazing. For the next few days, experiment with the feeling of having to live up to nobody’s expectations. You can be less visible, less vocal, even less helpful. This will help you center yourself, which will give you more energy to do whatever you want. One theme of the next few weeks (of utterly extraordinary astrology) is you finding your true relationship to the world around you. Many of the things that influenced you in the past are no longer valid or necessary. The world to which you’re forming a new relationship has never been a more frenetic work in progress — but there are patterns developing, and if you notice them you will be able to slip into the flow with much greater ease than ever before. To the extent that you’ve ever discounted the value of your intelligence, I suggest that’s the first thing that’s going to change.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — There’s an expression I love that I often hear from Australian people — “put your ears on.” Your charts suggest strongly that you’re looking for direction — I suggest you listen for it. These days, listening is a learned skill. As far as I’ve seen, it’s one of the most clear indicators of awareness. The information coming your way could take many different forms, but what they have in common is sound. It might be music, it might be something you overhear, it could be the sounds of nature. Pay particular attention to erotic vocalizations (your own or those of anyone else) and notice how you feel when the sounds are entering your ears. I am suggesting that you open up to the rich textures, vibrations and guidance that can come in through this sense (and its related extra-sensory realm), though this will take practice. The result, however, will be making contact with a new kind of confidence. As the next few eminently interesting weeks develop, listening will lead naturally to expressing yourself in new ways, with the operative word being new.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — A world of possibilities is about to open up to you, though you may be so involved in your current commitments that you can’t see any way of making those possibilities real. However, most of the truly spectacular astrology of the next month takes place in the angle of your chart that speaks about longterm plans, so I suggest you take the long view. That always starts with holding a vision. You will be amazed when you see how efficiently a vision translates into manifested reality. Keeping that in mind, this would be a great time to get clear about what you do not want, and gradually resolve each of those things one at a time. You might notice that as you do this, you will discover that some of those aspects of your life are nourishing you beautifully, and if that’s true, you can keep them.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — You seem drawn into a situation where you will need to let go of some of your own priorities and work with those of someone else. There’s a way to do this without giving up your power, which is about working with the common interests you share with the people in this situation. There are plenty — and there is also the potential for everyone to benefit substantially based on those mutual interests. In actual fact, life is not a game of “every man for himself.” If it was, we would not build towns, cities, universities or farming cooperatives. But there is a commitment involved. In this case you may feel that you’re making that commitment to a certain person or maybe even to an idea, or a values system. In truth what you’re doing is committing to your relationship to existence. That’s a little like saying you’re reaffirming your promise to live your life fully, only it’s a lot bigger.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — You may wonder what is happening to a particular relationship — but I suggest you leave your fears behind you. Yes, you might have the feeling that things are slipping out of control, but what good has control done for you or for the people you love? What you’re about to experience is the first step in a concentrated series of transitions lasting into late June. One message of this journey will be that control is a null concept. You will be reminded to take nothing for granted. And you will see how far simple trust can take you in your most intimate relationships. I know that most of the time we define these encounters as places of exchange, where if things are going well, we both give and get. The relationship environment of your life goes beyond mere exchange, and enters the dimension of alchemy. You have a role in someone’s life that you don’t understand — and cannot fully understand until you see the results. You don’t need to do much, except for participate when you feel the opening and invitation to offer yourself.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — The world around you may seem to be spinning out of orbit, but you are grounded and safe. You have what you need, and if you don’t, you can go a long way by opening up to receiving it. That sensation of opening to receive — so rarely remembered, if it was ever experienced before — is a gentle feeling. There’s no struggle, no question of deserving, no push or pull. It’s as natural as a sponge absorbing water. You have something more, though — the ability to self-create. In a sense, you are absorbing from within, which is one of the exalted creative stages because it means you can access your inner well and have something unusual to express. I would add a note about any health worries you may have: this is the weekend to put them behind you, whether by recognizing they are merely fears, or by deciding what action you can take to resolve the issue.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — You seem to feel cluttered in emotional material, to the point where there is no room for you within your feelings or the four walls you inhabit. I suggest you make some space. Push the walls open, clear out people and things (including the ones you’re carrying in your aura) or get outside, at any time but especially for Sunday’s solar eclipse. If you have been struggling for ideas to move forward, you will discover that they were on their way once you made space for them. Creativity is not compatible with worry, and it’s rarely an attribute of what psychologists call the mind’s “problem-solving mode.” If you are trying to solve problems, make sure you define them in a clear way. Don’t assume you’ve already done this — people rarely do. If something has persistently not had a solution, then it’s likely you’ve defined the problem in a way that cannot be solved. In any event, keep your body moving and your mental energy flowing, changing your scenery until you arrive somewhere nourishing.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — This weekend and for the next few weeks, pay attention to how you feel wherever you are. I would include geographic locations as well as physical spaces such as your home, your workspace and any other spot you may visit. Choose where to be based on what you know about how you feel in certain spaces — and use that power of choice generously. You are in the process of forming a bond with the Earth, and this is directly related to your sense of place. While not considered one of the five senses of Aristotle, it’s one of the most significant modes of awareness you have — the sense of where you belong. This is not so much a rational thing as it is a feeling thing. If you’ve felt divided about this issue, for example if you’ve been splitting your life in an uncomfortable way, you may discover that you can now resolve that. And if you’ve felt stuck (a very different sensation than grounded), you can get the energy going and work that out as well.

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