“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts...”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956
I’ve been an astrologer for a long time now. I’ve long shed my cherished illusion that having the profound gift of astrological knowledge with the deep insights it can offer into self, other people and the wider world, must surely make one a better person. This one did not surface very well from being dipped into the acid bath of Life as it Actually Is on Planet Earth.
Photo: Mezquita, Spain, Anne Whitaker 2018
Astrologers are just the same as everyone else when it comes to the spectrum of human behaviours from light to dark. You can offer a range of people the illuminating lens of astrological knowledge all you like. Each person, be they client, student or practitioner of astrology, will surely bring to the view through that lens the person they actually are. Astrological knowledge, as Solzhenitsyn points out here in general terms with such eloquent wisdom, is utilised for good or ill depending on the person who engages with it.
It has been with all this very much in mind that I have been contemplating the proliferation and explosion of engagement with ‘astrology’ in its widest possible definition as the social media revolution has taken off in recent years. I’ve spoken enough with colleagues I respect, with my students, and with open-minded members of the general public, to know that this has been a decidedly mixed gift brought to us by the amazing advances in technology which have swept our world along in recent times. I have had a number of essays published on this topic, as I observe the vast symbolic shift taking place as revealed by the larger planetary cycles. We are caught up in the turbulence of a New World Order emerging.
As I wrote in concluding my 2019 essay on Astrodienst, ‘Some Notes on Cycles in a time of Crisis’:
“…We can expect more stunning scientific leaps forward, and new ways for the human community to organise itself in the next two hundred years, as we move into the Air era with the Jupiter/Saturn conjunction at 0 degrees Aquarius in 2020, followed by Pluto’s (final) shift into that sign in 2024. Let’s hope we can use our ingenuity and our interconnectedness in this epoch arising, to find methods of organising our communities which no longer depend on destroying the Earth upon which we all stand…”
Personally, I have been heartened and inspired by the open-minded interest in astrology ‘beyond the sun signs’ shown by many of the young people I engage with these days. The 18-35 demographic in particular are true seekers after constructive contexts within which to place their lives as their world becomes ever-more turbulent and difficult as the environmental /cost of living crises intensify. However, I am also pretty appalled by the sheer amount of facile and often dangerous rubbish under the umbrella term ‘astrology’ which has found its way via social media into the public realm. I know amongst my colleagues and the wider public that I am not alone in this view.
In my recent collection of 60 published essays, articles and columns “Postcards to the Future” I have a whole section in which I mull over the issue of ethics and practitioner responsibility in the practice of astrology. This seems a good time to share one of the pieces from that section. Experienced and responsible astrologers cannot stem the tide of rubbish which ebbs and flows along with the genuinely enlightening and valuable astrological material ‘out there’ these days. But we can raise issues centring on good practice. We can also set a good example of ethical and responsible astrological education and practice which some aspiring astrologers and teacher might care to emulate.
Here is the extract:
The ethics of astrological practice: a Question needing an Answer…
I like it when the day throws up a compelling hot topic for my blog first thing – even if I am still half asleep at the time! A particular exchange of questions and answers recently with two commenters on Astrology: Questions and Answers Facebook Page woke me up very quickly. (Names have been changed)
Angela:“Do you do astrology ?I would love to have mine done sometime but I don’t know who does it? Any ideas?”
Ryan:“I’ve stumbled upon dozens of bloggers who give readings, you just have to look…”
Me: Ryan, it may well be the case that one can stumble upon lots of bloggers doing readings, but Angela needs to be careful to choose someone who is well experienced and qualified, preferably with their work insured and supervised, with an adequate degree of experience in reading horoscopes, counselling training, and a well developed sense of awareness of the power and responsibility that is taken on by virtue of reading people’s horoscopes. The late, much-missed Donna Cunningham, if you care to visit her excellent SkyWriter blog, has written about the negative and irresponsible things that some people can say when reading their fellow citizens’ charts.
It would be instructive for anyone contemplating booking a reading to go over to Donna’s blog and read about some of this alarming material, which by its existence emphasises the importance of prospective clients choosing carefully if they wish their charts to be read constructively and responsibly.
Here is a short quote from Donna Cunningham’s 4.12.2014 post, which supports my response to Angela and to Ryan:
“…For many years, I had a monthly advice column in Dell Horoscope Magazine, a Dear Abby type column in which readers wrote their problems and I answered based on their astrology charts. Part of the job description for that column seemed to be putting out fires that other astrologers have set, for I got many letters from readers who were devastated by the way their chart reading was handled.
These letters pointed to the need for true and responsible professional training in our field and the need, especially, for a certain amount of counseling training. Like it or not, counseling is what an astrologer does each time a client comes for a reading….”
….from Awful Things Astrologers Say to their Clients
My background in astrology
I have been an astrology practitioner, teacher and writer for over thirty years now. However, I remain awestruck by the power that astrology holds, when used responsibly with compassion and sensitivity, to offer creative and constructive guidance to clients as their lives unfold.
It is incredibly affirming to be able to say – either directly or by inference, depending on what that particular client needs at that time – “Here is your unique little chip of the cosmos into which you were born. Use the energies therein as best you can, given the gifts and limitations we are all handed at the outset – which I will try to convey to you as honestly and constructively as possible. Try to work with those energies well enough to be able to hand your chip back with a little more light shining through it at the end of your days.”
A sense of connection to an unfolding, meaningful energy weave where each of us has a thread to contribute, is a wonderful antidote to the feelings of anomie, disconnectedness and woundedness which so many people seem to be feeling at this time of great turbulence and upheaval.
However, the task of placing another person’s life in a context for them which makes their life’s current challenges easier to bear, helping them to work with often very painful circumstances as constructively as possible – how many people come for astrology readings when life is bowling smoothly along? Not many, in my experience! – is not straightforward, easy, or to be embarked upon lightly. It should not be embarked upon lightly or casually.
I can still recall, in the early days of my astrology practice, being extremely grateful that I had had a number of years of social work, psychiatric work, and counselling practice in which to ground myself. There is nothing quite like having to face the limitations of your capacity to help other people, which is a major dimension of social work, to ground you and keep you humble when taking upon yourself the power that being an astrologer brings.
I was fortunate enough to have been a student of Liz Greene’s for most of the 1990s. An entry requirement to study for the Diploma in Psychological Astrology which I completed in 1998, was that all students be in therapy for a year. It was made clear to us, in Liz Greene’s inimitable way, that we should not take upon ourselves the responsibility of being astrological practitioners without having the experience of a long seat in the client’s chair ourselves.
So, Ryan, I do hope that my response to your casual comment, with which no doubt you meant no harm, has not left you feeling too winded! And I thank you for making it, thereby giving me the opportunity to put forward my own thoughts regarding the great capacity for doing ill as well as good that astrologers take on when they read their fellow citizens’ horoscopes. ‘At least do no harm’ is the bottom line of the medical profession. It should be ours too.
Angela, if you are reading this, do not be too put off. There are many competent, compassionate, realistic, empathic astrologers out there. Just take your sweet time to make sure you seek out a good one!
“…This book is rich in everything! It is a collection of articles combining personal experience, Astrological Research and fabulous observation. Anne Whitaker writes in a personable, and entertaining style, drawing us deep into the beautiful world of Astrology. From Anaretic degrees to the role of the Moon’s Nodes, Anne shares her perspective and experience, inviting the reader to think about their own experiences and adding to their knowledge. This is a book written by a great teacher and one which I recommend to my students, as well as to all who have a passion for this ancient subject…”
1600 words © Anne Whitaker 2023