Monday, October 19, 2009

Self-Taught Astrologers Vs. Standardized Astrological Education

So I'm a self-taught astrologer. It's been a relatively short but (sometimes brutally) intensive course of study/practise.

Books, internet, astrology message boards, practising on people (sorry people!) and daily observation of transiting planets were the main avenues I took.

The ideas and techniques of other astrologers have certainly influenced the development of my own astrological take (as I've influenced others), but there is no one who can take credit for my personal astrological analysis or perspective. I worked hard for it, and it's mine.

I haven't learned from any one astrologer or any one course of study and didn't take formal courses or classes from other astrologers -  not necessarily because I didn't want to (at least in the beginning). I was open to the idea. It was more so that it just wasn't in my stars, so to speak, to learn that way. Initially, I didn't have the money to take classes or courses, so I learned on my own. Then I realized this was the way for me to go - choosing my own course of study, bit-by-bit, and letting my particular practise of astrology come into existence on its own terms.

I think for people who are meant to access it, astrology is inherent in a lot of ways. One day you start to read it or hear about it and it just means something to you. From there, a process is triggered by which it is drawn to the surface, into conscious, day-to-day life. But it feels as if you've always had the knowledge inside. It just takes a while to fully develop the language used to access and express it.

I think a do-it-yourself (DIY) style is fairly common among astrologers. At the same time, it's also fairly common to take a specific course of study under specific astrologers as teachers.

My view is that it depends entirely upon the individual which way of learning is preferable. To each his/her own. I wouldn't suggest one way of learning astrology is better than another or makes a person more of an astrologer. A mix of formal classes and self-study would be a potent way to learn, but again, it depends on the case and the means available. It depends what's in the stars. It depends what you have access to and whether you have the expendable fiat currency to throw down for it. (The demand for standardized education for astrologers has a really strong classist reek to it, and I would bet money it's coming from middle and upper-middle class astrologers...)

There is a push in some astrology circles these days (including in Calgary) for standardized astrological education. I'm, of course, opposed to this because I feel this is not necessary across the board, and I think it would be quite stifling to the creative side of astrology - the spiritual art aspect - to have this imposed.

I understand that people who want standardized education want to weed out the fakes. They wish to make astrology more accepted in the mainstream by making it necessary for astrologers to have a certain standardized education before practising professionally.

I just don't think this is the way to go, for aforementioned reasons, but also, I've never been a mainstream-accepted kind of gal, and I don't think mainstream acceptance is something we should demand all astrologers strive for.

Mainstream acceptance, if it comes about, should be based on the stellar work of astrologers impressing people to such an extent that they say, "Hmm...there might be something to this." Acceptance and respect in the mainstream could naturally come about as a byproduct of excellent astrological work, but just as I found out that it wasn't in my best interests to try to get in with the popular kids in high school, I think making mainstream acceptance an across-the-board goal is not a good idea.

I think this push is biased to the scientific/psychological side of things. I don't consider astrology a hard science and I don't consider myself a psychologist, so again, this is not something I can personally get behind.

And let's be honest - this also has to do with money and the desire for a broader clientele. There's nothing wrong with that. I just don't think imposing standardized astrological education is the way to go to achieve that. (A little control freak-y, no?)

Yes, there is a basic system of astrology, and to call yourself an astrologer, you need to know and use that system.

But even what that basic system is depends on whom you ask.

I was shocked when I first found out that some astrologers don't use signs or houses! They use only aspects between/among the planets in their analysis. Other astrologers don't use the outer planets at all - meaning no Uranus, Neptune or Pluto. Then there is the choice between tropical and sidereal (the two major branches), the choice of house system (there are many - and again, some astrologers don't use any!), what planets/bodies you consider important enough to include in your analysis, and then the variations in interpretation among astrologers.

There are so many choices to make over the course of developing one's practise of astrology. I really feel that there are as many ways of practising astrology as there are astrologers.

And yeah, that leaves astrology open to watered-down versions practised by people who have not really put the time and effort into it. People who practise "soft" astrology and deal in textbook generalities or who water astrology down with a lot of other concepts to the point where it's more of a token kind of thing. This bugs the hell out of me, too, at times. I totally get that.

That New Agey wellness centre owner I wrote about in "Saturn in Virgo Calls Bullshit on The Secret..." is a prime example of this. She had very little understanding of astrology when I worked there. I introduced her to some astrological concepts and did a reading for her. Within months of ousting me from her business, she had declared herself an astrologer and was charging for readings. Now, knowing how much time, effort and practise it takes to gain a mastery of astrology (especially enough to do paid readings), I know it was impossible for her to be practising anything other than "soft" astrology mixed with other concepts.

(I've actually experienced this type of "Insta-Astrologer" thing more than once.)

So yeah, I get it. It's irritating as fuck when you've personally put the time and effort into something, really committed to it, lived it, and then people latch onto the label of "astrology" or "astrologer" in a very watered-down sense to sell a few more readings.

This definitely could be damaging to the credibility of astrology in the mainstream. But I can't personally stop people from selling watered-down astro-babble, as long as they're keeping it legal. All I can hope is that the proof will be in the pudding and these shortcut-takers will eventually reap what they sow.

The other side of the coin is enforced standardized astrological education, which bugs me just as much. Because who determines what the "standardized" astrological education is? Who determines what we all "have to know," how we must come to know it and how much we must pay to learn it? Who determines what is important to teach and what isn't? Which astrologers have their work included and which don't? Which versions of astrology are the accepted ones? And which ones aren't? From whose perspective is it taught?

Outside the very, very basics, it's up for debate.

I couldn't promote a standardized way of learning astrology. What I can get behind is - do what's right for you. Follow your passion and what interests you at the time. Certain areas will draw you in and just make sense, and there's your personal track. This is how people get to the astrology that pours out of their souls. This is how they get to the astrology only they can practise, from the perspective only they can bring.

Early on, as I moved away from relying on other people's interpretations and started doing my own interpretation of the zodiac, I erroneously believed that I used an "evolutionary" perspective of the chart. Now, I can't say where I first saw these words or in what context, but this was the way I felt I personally looked at the birth chart.

It was also the way I looked at my own life, pre-astrology. It related to an idea that there were larger reasons for my personal life, that there were broader goals and dynamics going on that I couldn't necessarily see. And there was a force behind this personal life of mine ensuring that the seeds of potential inside me were brought to fruition.

In basic terms, this way looking at the birth chart meant holding as a working hypothesis that we're born at the time that we are under the conditions that we are for evolutionary reasons both personal and collective. That our personal lives are connected to broader collective forces related to what has come before, to what exists presently and to what is yet to come. Our astrological themes are purposeful with this outlook of the birth chart, and the signs of the zodiac are multi-layered, relating to unfolding processes, rather than fixed traits that we "are" according to our astrology.

So through my course of learning and practising as a fledgling astrologer, I read books, articles and analysis by a lot of astrologers. I participated on internet message boards with professional astrologers. I contributed my work, integrated what was meaningful to me from the work of others and didn't much bother with the rest.

I honestly had no idea that Evolutionary Astrology (TM) was a specific course of study stemming from astrologers Jeffrey Wolf Green, Steven Forrest and Jan Spiller.

I had no idea there were entire Evolutionary Astrology schools turning out a particular brand of Evolutionary Astrologers.

So you can see how this would be a bit of a dilemma with me (early on) referring to myself as an "evolutionary" astrologer. I knew my perspective of the chart was evolutionary rather than fixed (as I explained previously), but I didn't practise astrology in the particular way taught by those astrologers.

For example, that specific method of Evolutionary Astrology uses the concept of past lives and has quite a strong psychological tone.

I don't use the concept of past lives. I don't believe or disbelieve in them, necessarily. It's just that the concept of past lives isn't essential to my perspective of the birth chart. I explain energetic dynamics in other ways. While I can see past lives as potentially useful for illustration's sake, I find that using that paradigm sometimes leads to dynamics I don't particularly like - including the misapplication of concepts like "bad karma," etc.

I also don't use psychology as the driving force behind my analysis.

I have read books by Jeffrey Wolf Green, Steven Forrest and Jan Spiller and enjoyed aspects of technique and interpretation from all three. (I also diverge from their analysis in a number of fundamental ways.)

At the same time, I found the work of many other astrologers (and astrology hobbyists) equally compelling.

There is a strong element of critical thinking necessary for anyone to learn any subject and then do their own thing with it. And as I've said, looking at the chart with an evolutionary eye doesn't require using the specific techniques of any one astrologer or group of astrologers.

So I was quite surprised when I was at work about two years ago and a woman came into the store. It came up that I was an evolutionary astrologer, and she said, "Oh, so you've studied at Rose Marcus' school!"

I had no idea who Rose Marcus was at the time. (It turns out she's an astrologer in Vancouver, B.C., who teaches the Jeffrey Wolf Green et al. school of Evolutionary Astrology).

So odd.

So here I have to make the distinction between Evolutionary Astrology (as taught by Jeffrey Wolf Green, Steven Forrest, Jan Spiller and their students) and astrology with an "evolutionary" perspective.

Those astrologers can take credit for the preceding form...not the latter.

(I don't refer to myself as an evolutionary astrologer anymore.)

What I've come to understand through my interactions in astrology circles is that for every astrologer who gains some level of mass appeal and name recognition, there are probably 30 more, working away in comparative obscurity, who do work of similar quality. Their work is equally important in contributing to the energetic body of astrology as a whole, to the progression of the collective astrological databank as it grows and does its thing in the world.

I think the singling out of certain big name astrology stars ( much as there is such a thing!) is a bit of a Pluto in Leo throwback. The doling out of personal acclaim/stardom is a little on the excessive side these days. This isn't taking away from the work these astrology stars have done, but I always have to look at the people who are NOT being as recognized and applauded, at the very important contributions they make to much less fanfare, to balance the story out...

You can't believe your own press, people - especially when you're the ones writing it!


Anonymous said...

I support you there is something authentic about studying and practicing astrology independently because like you I believe that it isn't a science...although I am sorry to hear folks keep high jacking your stuff.. it means you are on to something.. and they wish to be more in know..

There is nothing precise about astrology because when you read for someone you consider more than just the transits in their think about them-- what they told you and a whole bunch of other things.. (could be me though..)

There are things that cannot be taught, and looking to make astrology mainstream and is bull. Whenever something goes mainstream it seems to lose a great deal of it's original intent and root-- just to be popular. Look at Yoga.. in becoming an American Past time it has soul a great deal of soul..

I understand we live on this plane and all deserve to make a living but doing things just for more money doesn't sit right.. it sullies the energy of the art because it's no longer just about the person you are working with or sharing what you love.. It becomes about money-- which only has the value we give it..

No there is nothing wrong with making money, but there is something wrong with sacrificing the authenticity and evolution of your art for it.

*whew* off soapbox...going to nap..

Willow said...


Willow said...

I must say the push for standardized education has a real masculine bent to it, too. I think it's more about men wanting to be seen as successful out there in the big, bad world than anything astrology needs itself.

They can't deal with mainstream lack of legitimacy in what they do for a living.

But, I mean...that isn't MY problem. hahaha Why do I have to take your silly standardized course just to please your career ego?

I could get behind them bringing more yin/intuitive things like astrology into the mainstream structures...but they're trying to impose the structures on the astrology. Back assward.

Viki said...

Willow, thank you. You have so eloquently stated what I have been thinking about standardizing astrology and schools of astrological thought.

I, too, am self-taught and have been practising intuitive evolutionary astrology for 34 years. I'm one of the small fish in the big astrological pond practising natal astrology who enjoys helping people gain personal insight about their particular energies and purpose here.

As a fellow Plutonian, I am also suspicious of this drive to "standardize" and "educate" astrologers. Astrology's beauty lies in its diversity.

I should know. After studying charts for all these years, I still discover aspects and energies that I hadn't noticed before, because it is an art of personal unfoldment.

While the big name astrologers have some excellent material, my personal insight has come from living my chart. Ha, ha! Pluto can move by 30 seconds and I feel it! Yet some astrologers would argue vehemently with me that it is a transpersonal planet - in my 11th house in Virgo yet - so I couldn't possibly feel its effect. Yeah, whatever!

As for the "legitimacy" of astrology, I've always felt that some astrologers are trying to hard to gain acceptance. Really, I don't give a rat's ass if anyone believes it or not! It works for me, and has a wonderfully magical quality for anyone willing to devote serious time studying and living it.

Anyway, thanks again for a great article!