What is astrology? And – never say ‘never’!

Some years ago I closed down my astrology practice. I shredded all my case files and notes, chucked out all my leaflets, packed 18 years’ teaching notes into a large box and sent them off to an Eastern European astrology group who were looking for English language teaching notes. To my not inconsiderable surprise, I have found myself in recent months gradually feeling drawn back to practice as an astrologer after a very long sabbatical. “Never say never” strikes again! 

To this end I have been busy re-contextualising myself professionally: re-reading my favourite astrology books (which I had the sense NOT to give to Oxfam! ); organising supervision with a highly experienced and trained psychodynamic therapist who is also an astrologer; arranging membership of professional bodies,  and insurance; compiling refer-on practitioners’ lists for clients needing more support than a one-off horoscope reading can provide; learning to record on MP3 files using recording software instead of the old battered hand tape machine I used to use; setting up different payment arrangements now that cheques are no longer guaranteed – 

and in my view the most important thing of all, ie composing a leaflet which tells prospective clients what astrology is, what the limitations of ‘Sun Sign’ astrology are, what a horoscope is, what an astrology reading can offer, and what my approach is, as well as clear statements of fees, times, and the all-important disclaimer now advisable in these litigious times. It is very enjoyable and quite demanding, doing all this. 

I started off with writing the section of the leaflet which sets a background context. It is far too long for a leaflet and will need to be considerably shortened. So I thought I’d publish it as a blog post. Any feedback welcome – but anything rude or offensive will get binned!

What is Astrology?

“Six thousand years ago, when the human mind  was still half asleep, Chaldean priests were standing on their watchtowers, scanning the stars.”

 (Arthur Koestler from The Sleepwalkers)

This wonderful universe

This wonderful universe

The story of humanity is one of an unending attempt to create some recognisable order from the chaos of our earliest origins. In order to survive and evolve as a species, we have  created contexts for ourselves over many millennia from our interpretations of the world around us. Modern science has shown us that we are part of an interconnected universe of mind-boggling complexity, in its minutest essence a vast energy field, ever moving and changing to the shifting dance of waves and particles – chaos and order forever interweaving, forever returning to and arising from the Quantum Vacuum, or in Buddhist terminology the Void, or in Western spiritual terminology, the Ground of our being.

The vivid quotation from the philosopher Arthur Koestler illustrates the origins of the ancient art and science of astrology – literally ‘the study of the stars’, whose basic precept “as above, so below” demonstrates that our modern understanding that we live in an interconnected cosmos is not a new idea at all. It has been around ever since we fragile humans, vulnerable to the vagaries of a tempestuous earth with its storms, earthquakes and floods, began to evolve a context of meaning by plotting with increasing sophistication as time went on, the movements of the heavenly bodies in the starry skies above us.

From observing the regular patterns and cycles followed by those heavenly bodies, and recording with care what links there seemed to be between such movements and the ebbs and flows of human life, the early astrologer/priests began to be able to determine (with varying degrees of accuracy – prediction in any field of endeavour has never to this day become an exact science!) the fate of the king and the nation according to the movements of the planets. Personal horoscopes plotting the patterns of individual life were unheard of until the first century or so AD.

Modern-day astrology is very different from the fate-ridden pronouncements of the past. The twentieth century saw big shifts in our understanding of science, history and culture which moved us from the Modernist era of  ‘grand narratives’  describing with confidence and conviction the way we are as humans, to an altogether less certain set of perceptions.

Just as modern science has shown us that there can be no absolute objectivity since the presence of the observer can be shown to influence the outcome of the experiment, so we now live in a Postmodern era where we understand that we are embedded in the unfolding action of the plot of life on Earth. Thus we shape our ‘reality’ even as we are living it – and indeed recognise that there are probably many ‘realities’. Absolute truth is not what it once was!

Astrology, too, has moved with the times although there are still many reputable and respected practitioners who stick closely to traditional methods of interpretation and prediction rooted in antiquity. Knowledge of astrology doesn’t result in harmonious agreement – even if it is to differ! – amongst astrologers. Far from it. In that respect, we are just as riven with conflicts and disagreements as any other human group.

Modern psychology, rooted in the great insights of Freud and then Jung who was basically a mystic, more eclectic and open minded in his knowledge base than Freud, has had considerable impact on how astrology is now taught and practised.

In antiquity, the planets were seen as gods whose interaction with and action upon humans’ lives determined their fate. Jung’s great contribution to the modernising of astrology in the 20th century was his formulation – from the study of universal myth – of the concept of the collective unconscious, an updating of the ancient idea of the World Soul. This collective unconscious comprises a group of energy patterns or archetypes, an idea taken from the Greek philosopher Plato, which are present in all cultures across the world and which shape every aspect of human behaviour.

Jung’s view was taken up by the first of the great psychological astrologers Dane Rudhyar in the middle decades of the twentieth century, and further developed by other astrologers, most notably well-known Jungian analyst, astrologer and author Liz Greene whose fusion of mythology, Jungian psychology and astrology further shaped the model known as Psychological Astrology which has become very influential in the thinking of many contemporary astrologers, myself included.

To be continued….

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1000 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

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12 responses to “What is astrology? And – never say ‘never’!

  1. Anne, a worthwhile read and presentation…looking forward to reading more…glad you are moving in the directions of your desire…especially now. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Wonderfully coherent! Thank you.

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  3. ghislaine winning

    you have inspired so many of us in the past .i for one am very glad you are taking up practicing again .i look forward to reading more ghislaine

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    • Thanks so much Ghislaine! I have really appreciated our encounters over the the long period of my retreat and gradual return during the last few years, and your positive comments about my work.

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  4. I, new as I am to your reading list, am very happy to hear that you are going to take up the practice again. I know of three people right off the bat (myself included) that I know would be interested in having you do an in-depth reading for them.
    I have very recently become my own company (on here today with the intent of adding LLC to my blog title and sadly, trying to decide how to split up my blog into at least four parts…).
    My recent endeavors include creating brochures for other companies. If I can be of service in that regard, happily count me in.
    I find it is always easier to fix up someone else’s stuff than it is to fix up my own. Alas, I am always in love with all my words…. (so hard to decide what needs to go).
    You have some very good material in the beginning here. Easy to pull some of it together for a shorter, four-fold type, brochure. I am very interested in what else you have to say about the subject, and especially about what you wish to charge, since I have already decided from your previous writing, that I like your style and intentions.

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    • Thanks so much, emaria, for both your practical offer of help and your affirmation of my process of returning to practice and my ‘style and intentions’. For the first period after I begin again – probably late April/early May 2012 – I will be doing only face-to-face readings and some one-to-one mentoring for students who have embarked on reputable study courses with eg the Faculty of Astrological Studies, whose Certificate I obtained at the outset of the first phase of my astrological career in 1983. I really missed having a mentor with whom to chew things over face-to-face, despite having an excellent correspondence tutor – Cordelia Mansall, in case she is still out there and comes across this blog post!!.

      But there is every possibility that I will after a while consider doing eg Skype readings, which I know many astrologers do. Then I will certainly let you know.

      I am fortunate in having a friend who is also a very experienced professional re producing PR materials who has agreed to give a polish to my leaflet when I have completed the content and layout. I have hunted high and low for even ONE copy of the one I used before, to no avail. Being a Plutonian person, my endings are always drastic so I just have to begin anew with that too!

      I will email you a copy when it is complete,for your information re fees etc – feel free to give me your comments….

      Good luck with your own projects! And many thanks again for your support.

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  5. 1.4.12. from Daniel W, by email….. ‘I am very impressed with the article, thought you made it really engaging yet established the philosophy and science well, in regards to astrology. Style AND substance!’

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  6. High praise coming from you! Thanks!

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  7. from Sheilagh 3.4.12 via LinkedIn:

    “Absolutely delighted to hear this news and reckon you’ll be inundated once your old students get to know you’re back in the loop!!! Any chance you might end up visiting Aquarius rising? You had so much talent in your field it is brilliant to know you’re going to put it to good use once again!!! Looking forward to our coffee!! Love sheilagh”

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  8. Hi Sheilagh

    many thanks – hope I can live up to this accolade….see you soon! xx

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