Artwork by James Koehnline (left & right) and Nancy Zbik (center)
Questioning the Trend to Legitimatization
(excerpted from ASTROLOGIK ©1999 Antero Alli)
As socioeconomic conditions destabilize, a disoriented populace naturally responds with more anxiety about their uncertain futures. We want answers. Security is in high demand these days; all types of security. Many turn to religion for moral security. Those who can find no answers there look to alternative ideologies, astrology being one of many to choose from. Some folks can find emotional security in marriage, while others bank on the economic security of investment income.
Over the past ten years or so numerous astrological publications, conferences, and their adjoining communities have drawn considerable attention to, what I perceive as, a misguided security need for legitimizing astrology. The term "legitimatize", as used here refers to a scholastic, and eventually federally-approved, testing policy for evaluating prospective astrologers accuracy, competence and integrity as future professionals in a rapidly expanding astrological marketplace. Who creates and grades these tests? Test standards and evaluation procedures are currently under design and implementation by self-made institutes, organizations and corporations dedicated to, not only expanding public awareness of astrology but, raising the status of astrology and astrologers to that of doctors, teachers, scientists and other university-degreed professionals. Very Saturn...perhaps too much Saturn.
Astrological Franchises Vs. Oracular Astrology
In this article I wish to offer alternative, and probably unpopular, views on the practice of astrology and the current bandwagon effect of its proposed legitimization. My position here is not to fight against what I see as an inevitable astrological trend but to fight for a far more Uranian vision of astrology. Will "astrology licenses" be required to read charts for money? What common denominator of consciousness will licensing standards reflect? Will graduates of these degree-granting institutes franchise these standards by forming their own astrology academies?
What is meant by "oracular" refers to the ageless archetype of the muse, a mythical and sometimes human figure who speaks and acts truthfully without any regard or consideration for social, economic or political consequences. For good reasons, a muse maintains a sociological posture at the fringe of any village or hub of mainstream values; the sage, the shaman, the witch, the crone. Once in awhile, revolutionary Uranus triumphs over Saturn. Muses infiltrate society via cultural camouflage of humor (Lenny Bruce), cinema (Charlie Chaplin), poetry (Sylvia Plath), politics (Martin Luther King), theatre (Arthur Miller), music (Kurt Cobain) and psychology (Wilhelm Reich). B but when their camouflage wears thin, Uranian truth-sayers are exposed and the restricting archetype of Saturn gains prominence. Then, our contemporary oracles (see previous examples) encounter various degrees of conflict, persecution and banishment from consensus reality agencies of local and federal governments.
An oracular approach to astrology serves the community at large by acting on that community as an an outsider viewpoint. When residing and working in denser social regions, it is easy to lose perspective of life beyond the local hive; we lose sight of the forest for the trees. Realizing and admitting this loss of Big Picture vision motivates some people to find a good astrologer. So, why would anyone want to standardize astrology to conform to mainstream values ? Wouldnt this diminish astrologys potency and effectiveness as an oracular symbology (telling the truth, regardless of social, economic and political considerations) ?
Attainment of any state-sanctioned, government approval for teaching and practicing astrology can only serve to assimilate and homogenize astrology into the mainstream. How important is it to see astrology on the cover of TIME magazine? As important as an epitaph, I fear. Are we taking astrology too seriously ? If so, it may help explain some of the media skepticism confronting astrology today. How can we expect others to take astrology, and the astrological community, seriously if we are filling that psychic space with our own self-importance? Does the reputation of astrology really need this kind of hype during these times? Who amongst us is ready to be made an example by fearful, bigoted sectors of the populace seeking their next scapegoat? As astrologers, I think we tend to get ahead of ourselves with this naive assumption that we are living in more enlightened times than actually exist, or can exist, for the general populace.
Now Thyself, Know Your Bias
Perhaps, we have grown too enchanted by the grandeur of the language or, for predicting future transits; I dont know. I do know from personal experience how out of touch astrologers can get with the street level of reality when we are justifying life to ourselves and our clients in terms of planets, houses and signs. I question the underlying motives for this surge to legitimatize astrology. I have no degrees in Psychology yet human hindsight tells me this syndrome acts like a well-meaning attempt to heal early childhood wounds. But trying to replace an absence of unconditional parental love, with approval from a larger parental body called government, can never bring back the missed love; that hurt must be mourned, forgiven and released. Thats if we want to move on and grow up. Some astrology institutes make manual horoscope calculation and construction mandatory procedure for passing their certification programs. This is the 21st century; can we pick up the pace here?!
Old world values aside, the accuracy and speed of astrological computer software frees the astrologer to address the real work of astrology: interpretation. And lest we forget, astrologers are map-readers; interpreters of signs and symbols. At most, astrology is an interpretive medium. With erudite translation, anyone can learn to provide an accurate symbolic diagnosis of the person, relationship or corporation of any given horoscope.
What precedes and underlies even the most skillful translation, however, is something called bias. It should go without saying -- my apologies for any redundancies -- that all astrological interpretations reflect the subjective bias of the interpreter; the idiosyncratic filter of beliefs, ethics, values and personal psychology that an astrologer uses to interpret symbols. Contrary to what some astrologers think, there can be no such thing as "pure information" or "absolute objective truths" when interpreting an astrology chart. You can grow adamant and impassioned about your point of view (and you may even be right!) but it still remains your opinion; forget this fact and, your perspective rapidly calcifies into stone, cold dogma (or bigotry and paranoia, if allowed to).
Interpretation Is Everything
If interpretation really is everything and if astrology can never actually provide absolute answers or explanations to real life problems then, why hire an astrologerin the first place ?! Good question. As an astrologer, I like to think that my services offer something more dynamic than the passive provision of pat answers. By unveiling multiple points of view, for example, more information can contribute to a bigger picture of any given dynamic or situation. With enough meaningful data, clients can begin piecing together their own options for making their own decisions, while expanding awareness of their own lives. Do people really need advice? Advice can be a very tricky business. Is advice what their hard-earned money pays for? Can we really ever help anyone ? More good questions.
Given the chance to think for themselves and make their own choices, I think most people would make the extra effort to do so. But these liberating options must be offered and then, earned by the client. As a Uranian astrologer, my bias stems from a strong belief in freedom -- for myself and for others -- when it comes to talking with people about their charts. My purpose: to say what I see and what it means to me. My process is to do so by acting on the client as a liberating influence. I am not there to act as Saturn and define them; more like Uranus, I startle them with options for redefining themselves. While this approach sees a diminishing return of the same clientele, all seem to leave grateful and with enough hands-on, inner work to apply on their own time; without me. My conscience is freed from the guilt Id feel had I supported their psychological dependency on my services. What is my intent as an astrologer? If liberation expresses the intention of the transpersonal force of Uranus, that is what I serve.
When an astrologer presents a client with, what sounds to that client like, fixed answers, set solutions and absolute beliefs about the clients chart and hence, his or her life then that astrologer is practicing a heavy-handed, overtly authoritative approach to astrology; too much Saturn. This gives the client basically two options: 1) Accept everything the astrologer says as truth or 2) Question the authority of that astrologer and, obtain second or third opinions wherever the data feels suspect. Economic incentives aside, which of these two options would you encourage in your client? (Honestly now).
The Difficult Practice of Oracular Astrology
Another problem with any overtly saturnine approach to astrology is this economic incentive for encouraging the same clients to keep returning, as if they needed quarterly, semiannual and/or annual checkups. Surely you have seen others do this or have, perhaps, done this yourself. This relationship dynamic mirrors the way state-sanctioned doctors, psychotherapists and attorneys maintain economic ties with their patients and clients. And, lest we remain naive or ego-inflated, astrology is not a science nor a psychotherapy nor is it legal counsel; astrology is a language. Client-dependency also replicates a kind of parent/child dynamic that unfortunately inflates a false sense of self-importance in the astrologer, who grows attached to feeling needed by his or her clients. If you can live with this in full awareness of its consequences, then this approach is for you; welcome to papa Saturns Astrology Academy. If youre having trouble fitting in, you may be a maverick; welcome to Uranus.
Maverick status, in any chosen profession, customarily begins with self-employment; you are the boss, worker and publicity agent all in one. Your most valuable asset -- your time -- is returned to you. You own your own time. All this glorious freedom is paid for by assuming more responsibility for yourself; far and away more than choosing to follow or copy external standards and values. This kind of self-responsibility is, by its sociological context, very difficult. A society that consistently rewards conformity is often threatened by autonomous outsiders who depend less on its more conservative values.
Real freedom in this society is an uphill struggle. If this kind of difficulty, with its occasional and inevitable adversity, fail to discourage you then maybe you have what it takes to earn your own freedom in this world. Your hard-earned autonomy depends on maintaining high levels of self-honesty every day of your life; a willingness and ability to keep playing it straight with yourself with little regard for protecting your self-image, or ego. With enough direct experience of the life you are living, you can begin determining the nature of your bias, or where you are coming from.
Based on what you see, feel and know to be true, what are you willing to stand for, fight for and even die for? This forms the basis of your convictions. Add to this passion, a Ï humility for realizing that no matter how fervently you feel about something, it is still just your point of view; your opinion. Know that from another outside vantage, your precious opinion may appear ludicrous or false and, even heretical. If you can live with these devastating contradictions, you are better prepared to interact with compassion and intelligence when interpreting the many contrary angles in astrology charts and the people they represent.
Once you know where you are coming from -- ideologically and ethically -- you also have what it takes to develop a knack for knowing where others are coming from, too. This can enable you to see through their pretense, their well-meaning charades and their frustrations to the deeper, underlying truths guiding their lives. It is this deeper self that the oracle speaks to and confirms the existence of. And, in doing so, acts as a force of liberation to the clients innate sense of truth. This can be unsettling to those who have denied themselves for years but ultimately, I believe, theyll be grateful for the shock of freedom to their being.
One Hundred Percent Integrity
What does it take to develop an oracular approach to astrology? One hundred per cent integrity and a little courage. Inner strength, or character, develops through an active struggle to stay completely honest with yourself, especially amidst a society showing little or no support for your efforts. The internal reward for persisting with your personal integrity is, however, beyond measure; it ·is profound. One hundred percent integrity means knowing what you can stand behind with your totality intact; with your whole being. Whether this is your word, or your perception, or your instincts, this is your place of total commitment. As commitment is tested over time, a confidence is born out of a courage to face the truth about yourself regardless of the nature of that truth or the ego, or self-image, buffering you from more direct experience of it. Learning to face and live with the truth about yourself prepares you for bearing the truth about others. This becomes especially useful with the acceptance and knowledge of your flaws and shortcomings.
If, for instance, you see an aspect in someones astrology chart symbolizing events you personally have had little or no experience with, your integrity demands that you say so (rather than fabricate a wise-sounding lie). To touch and enliven the very being of another, you must first know how to come from this place within yourself. And in my humbled experience, the greatest impediment to being has been understanding; understanding way too much and realizing far too little. Since childhood most of us have been taught, by parents and teachers, to understand much and realize little. I was never taught the difference; that habit had to be learned on my own. Until our concepts of ourselves and the world coincide more truthfully with actual existing realities, our being can be said to be lagging behind our understanding.
This is how conceptual mind stunts our capacity for the direct experience and realization so essential to nurture the being; we are truly giants raised as dwarves! One reason people seek out oracular astrologers is to support the awakening chrysalis of their inner being. The cocoon of spiritual amnesia cracks and the being is hungry for practical information to engage in its spiritual rebirth.
Where the Oracle Dares to Tread
Oracular astrology may not be for everybody; not everyone is cut out to offer this approach and, only a small percentile of people seeking astrologers (maybe 10%) want, or need, an oracular-type reading. This is not meant to sound elitist; it is elitist. And, not elitist in the "holier than thou" or weirder than thou" sense, either. Oracles tend to be elitist by virtue of their inability or unwillingness to conform to the molds and values established by consensus mainstream society. Oracles are a growing minority of fringe-dwellers living near societys margins for reasons of their own.
Many oracular personalities -- astrologers and non-astrologers, alike -- find themselves living in the city; feeding on the buzz of a denser culture. Oracles that can afford it establish dual residencies; one in-hive, another beyond, rotating their lives between outback rural regions and the concrete metropolitan jungles. To sustain aesthetic and philosophical distance in the city, urban oracles find ways to creatively marginalize themselves -- by becoming artists, writers, musicians or astrologers -- to enforce the isolation their unique perspective thrives on.
Or perhaps, they choose a suitably reclusive lifestyle to stay closer to their solace of solitude. This kind of creative alienation may not always come as a conscious act or choice but from a compromise the deeper, inner being is willing to make to stay alive. Can anyone be an oracle? The oracle can be anybody and, anyone can be an oracle; it is nothing special. It is, also, not always a matter of decision but fate or personality which, as Robert Hand suggests, may be a modern word for fate. Some of us are predisposed to an oracular temperament for telling the truth and acting truthfully with no regard for socioeconomic or political consequences.
So why institutionalize and legitimatize astrology ? Have we not heard the news?! Truth does not sell (without hype). And, advertising is big, big business in the hungry ghost realms of unfulfilled dreams, promises and lies.
ASTROLOGIK: The Oracular Art of Astrology
by Antero Alli (Vertical Pool, 1999)
Another excerpt from ASTROLOGIK
"Black Moon Rising: Depression as Symptomatic of Creative State"
Horoscope Interpretations by Antero Alli
OTHER BOOKS BY ANTERO