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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

“You Can Make Astrology Prove Anything…”

“You can make astrology prove anything,” she said to me with a malicious little grin. “It’s like the Bible—just pick the right verse and chapter, and you can make a case for God’s approval or disapproval on almost anything—astrology included.” My friend had been studying astrology just long enough to get both confused and excited, and I could feel the tense undertones of emotion mixed in with the pleasantries of our after dinner conversation. “Look at the choices,” she went on, “mid-points, solar arcs, transits, fixed Stars, secondary and tertiary progressions—just pick a time and you can back up anything you want to say with some aspect.” She had a point there, but she was missing the larger picture of how astrologers work with the increasingly growing tool-box of choices we have at our disposal. And beyond that, she was missing something even harder to explain. But I wanted to try.

I understood her complaint: Vedic, Sidereal, Placidus, Koch….evolutionary, medieval, psychological … it really all ‘under one sky’? And if so, how are we to know what works best? A skeptic, or a student like my friend, can look at all that and say that astrologers can pick and choose a system, a star, a progression, a transit, or whatever---to prove any point. It’s uncomfortable to hear that, because at certain times I think it has been done and it certainly reflects the ‘shadow quality’ of our work. However, most of us pick a system, and then prioritize our methods within a system into something that’s perhaps not quite a science, but at least has an integrity to it. I explained to my friend that just because one person primarily uses asteroids and relies on lunation cycles and another relies heavily on progressions and the outer planet transits, does not make either one of them wrong or better. I suggested that the ideal is to be able to see a theme repeated several times in different ways before making a case to substantiate a point. What I felt was important was to hold to the integrity and prioritizing within a given system, and then, according to our familiarity with these other “language systems” to check it out with them too. That way one could see what was congruent and what was paradoxical. But I reminded her that not only are systems, orbs, and aspects not perfect “black and white” paradigms, but that people are often profoundly paradoxical, and constantly in the process of changing as well! She could understand this. What I couldn’t find words to explain then, was how a blind analysis of a chart or a period of time is much more problematic than a good astrology consultation. And that what underlies a good consultation often has much less to do with the mechanics of choosing a technique than something most astrologers use almost unconsciously, and is perhaps the one commonality that all good astrologers have in common….but first let’s delve a bit more into the problem.

As astrologers, we quickly learn that there is an almost overwhelming smorgasbord of choices to make. Many of us fall back on the choices of our favorite teachers, and look to what the newest software programs or books are suggesting, or go to a conference and hear someone—who’s quite convincing and charismatic-- suggesting a particular way to view the newest or oldest menu of astrological techniques. This is not to say that we shouldn’t sample widely from the array of wonderful choices to find what works best for us and to find what we feel will nourish our clients---but underlying all this is the shadow of the unspoken fear--- is there a better way or a more accurate choice? How do I know if I’m giving my client the best—the highest truth? These thoughts are very uncomfortable, and most of us confront that nagging uncertainty by being certified within a certain tradition, or we proclaim to offer an eclectic approach depending on the circumstance and client. We find a position and hold to it. All this is fine; and it is what we must do.

As a counseling astrologer, I have a Master’s degree in counseling psychology with an emphasis in the work of Carl Jung. I’ve had teachers who used the tropical Placidus house system, and who viewed the planets as mythological archetypes within a spiritual mandala, and who saw the transits and progressions as challenging turning points along the process of individuation. I liked seeing how the astrological elements related to the Jungian modes of sensing, thinking, intuiting, and feeling. And so today I take comfort in the correspondences that align just close enough for my purposes, and that this particular brand of astrology fits ‘just enough’ into a larger context of a well respected system. So, when I’m asked: Is astrology based on science, or synchronicity? I launch into Jung’s theory of synchronicity, and I’m off and running. Yet I’m still uncomfortable with variations of the “shadow question” such as—if the precession of the equinox’s is true, then isn’t Vedic more accurate in the predictive sense? And if the asteroids are archetypes why not use them? And how can I justify my use of orbs and aspects?

What about this huge tool-kit of resources we astrologers are privileged to use today? I like to think that just as a carpenter will have his or her own reasons for using a particular tool for a given situation, we too need to have many tools for different people, different cultures, and different questions. We might want to say, unlike using an authoritative text such as the Bible, that astrologers have to intuitively choose which technique to use to draw forth a response---and that what is more important is that we should be trying less to prove a point than to inquire into the client’s truth.

My bias is that my best “readings” are not the ones in which I rely heavily on prediction, but when the metaphors I use allow the client to see deeply into their life. I know this is happening when they start talking more than me, and when they start looking at the question behind the question that they presented initially. And isn’t the point to put the technique secondary to the quality of the moment?

So what I’d like to offer is this---when we are presenting a symbolic system and the client is presenting their particular life issues---then, isn’t the answer to be found in that “sacred temenos” where we engage with the client in a way that reflects back to them what they are presenting to us? Does it matter what astrological language we use? Perhaps it’s not only the tropical Placidus evolutionary ‘way’ or the Vedic ‘way’ as much as it is the quality of the dialogue between two people in which the symbols and metaphors remind the client of what he or she already knows to be true. And if we ultimately want to empower our client to make the wisest choices possible given the situation---what’s the one thing we need to give this client in our brief time together? Is it the proficiency and uniqueness of our calculations or how we arrive at our speculations? I don’t think so.

I’d like to purpose that the most valuable thing we can give our client is silence. It may only be a few moments here or there during the reading, but if we have given them, by whatever techniques used, a clear mirroring of their situation and an overview of the astrological ‘weather-forecast’---then we need to give them a moment in which to let their inner oracle speak. One could make a case that most of the people who come for readings already know ‘the answer’ but primarily want reassurance, and even for those who think they don’t know, we still owe it to them to stop talking and listen to hear what they are understanding. Ask them what they have seen or heard. Give them a chance to answer their questions. In the few cases when the client cannot think symbolically or follow the line of thought, I’ve sometimes said: “If this was my chart, I might think…”and then paraphrase, pause, and say—“”what do you think of that? And then listen to hear if they understood the gist of symbolism and the challenge of their freedom of choice.

Silence! A new technique…subtle and profound. In every consulting hour, I suspect that no matter what techniques are used, the hope is that through clear translating and mirroring of the astrological symbolism with the human situation, there will be a synchronistic moment of “ah-hah” when there’s been an accurate mirroring of that which is above, to that which is below. Isn’t that what we long for---when some piece of the client’s truth and the astrologer’s technique rise up to a little epiphany together! Ahh…. then there is that felt moment of meaningfulness that makes all considerations of proof of technique secondary. And so I offer you the idea that the technique that brings this about is already embedded in most systems---the idea of moments of silence. Perhaps that is our only safeguard in truth-seeking; not forcing our predictions or symbolism or bias on our client, but honoring instead the idea that we are acting as psychopomps; instruments of the Divine. We can play whatever instrument(s) we want to seduce their Soul-wisdom forth, and present to them whatever delectable "astro-dish" we think will be most nourishing, but then, let’s give them a moment of silence--- to swallow, to digest, and to truly look at their chart. I believe they will take what they need when we make it simple, clear, and in a language they understand. And in that moment of silence we give a chance for the Spirit to enter; for what the Jungians call the numinous moment--- when our client looks at their own chart and sees their own answers projected there---upon the clear sky of the heavens above and their gods within.

(c)Elizabeth Spring

Elizabeth Spring, MA has a degree in counseling psychology with an emphasis in the work of Carl Jung. She has been a student of astrology since 1969 and has been doing astrological counseling and readings since 1992. Elizabeth gives workshops at the Boston Jung Institute, as well as writing many articles that can be read on her website: Her full bio, teaching/speaking engagements, and previous publications are there as well.