Note to Readers: This is an interview from the December edition of The Artful Mind magazine in Great Barrington, MA, which has published Eric’s horoscopes for several years. The questions were written by the editor, Harryet Candee. — efc
You write newspaper and magazine horoscopes intended for thousands of people. How do you make them so personal and direct?
That’s the question, isn’t it? Part of the answer can be found in astrology itself. Astrology is real, not in theory but as demonstrated by those who have the gift for reading it. Then it’s necessary to be able to express what one sees in the chart in a way that makes sense to the reader. I look at the chart, see the puzzle and then work it out for the highest good for all concerned.
I write and rewrite until what I am saying is clear enough to follow and understand, as best I can, speaking in human terms, to the person who will be reading. Astrology is not the subject of my horoscope columns but rather the method I use to write them. In other words, in my horoscope columns, I’m writing about people, what we feel and what we go through rather than about astrology. I use astrology but I don’t let it get in the way of the conversation, and this allows the personal contact to come through. The planets and signs talk to me, and I talk to you, and I try to be the best translator I can be.
Have you decided that you were born in a good time, meaning, a good time in the history of humanity?
I have thought about this a lot. I was born at the right time for who I am and what I came here to do. That was in 1964, one month after the Beatles arrived in New York City and just a few miles away. And it was just four months after the assassination of President Kennedy — so the Sixties were really getting going at that point. Astrologically, what we think of as the Sixties was influenced by the alignment of two planets — Uranus and Pluto. This sparked many small revolutions and a few large ones. It was a moment of awakening, and that was the moment I was born. People who lived through that time lived through the astrology in a transient way. People who were born with it took the patterns with them. We’re now in a very similar moment, as Uranus and Pluto are aligned again for the first time since the mid-Sixties — and we’re seeing a similar result, but we’re only at the beginning.
Where were you born, what do you like about it, and what was your favorite thing about school?
I was born in Brooklyn. It was a thriving community at the time, and a great place to grow up. There was no sense of ‘sheltered innocence’. It wasn’t Manhattan, but it was definitely a massive city with every problem and every potential, and a beautiful place. After leaving home when I was a young adult, I chose to live in rural areas (mostly, the Hudson Valley), but I can live anywhere. Growing up in Brooklyn has left me feeling comfortable living anywhere from London to Paris to where I live today.
As for school, there is really one highlight — I went to John Dewey High School, an experimental public school in Coney Island. I credit my experience there with bringing out the person who I am inside. Dewey at that time had no grades, an open campus and close relationships between students and teachers. Not only wasn’t it a prison, it resembled a university campus for a bunch of 14- to 18-year-olds, and most of us rose to the occasion. It was the perfect environment for me. We had unusual freedom and unusual responsibilities placed on us for young students, things that would be unconscionable in a public high school today.
Dewey had 11 different student publications. I was the editor of Gadfly, the social science journal. I learned to write, edit, typeset and compose newspapers and magazines while I was in high school, skills I use and teach right up to the present minute.
You have many publishing credits as an environmental journalist. Did you study astrology when you were at the height of your investigative reporting career?
Astrology and newspaper reporting have always had a close relationship in my life. I started studying astrology with high focus in 1994, at the peak of my investigative work. At the time I was unraveling how Monsanto, General Electric and Westinghouse had polluted the world with chemicals called PCBs and dioxins. This is heavy stuff, and I had been doing it full time for about three years when I discovered my passion for astrology.
Someone had suggested that I read the Patric Walker horoscope in The New York Post. Patric, a British astrologer, was the maestro of the horoscope column. For the first time, astrology seemed directly relevant and capable of something that nothing else could do. His work was so amazing that after two or three years of reading these astonishing daily columns, I had to know how he did it. So I bought the basic tool of astrologers — the ephemeris — and I started by taking apart Patric’s column every night. That is how I learned. I have good research and investigative skills, and I turned them onto the practice of astrology. One year later I had started my own column, which continues to this day in this magazine and many others.
Do you study your own chart? How does it guide you on a daily basis?
I know my chart pretty well, though it’s never possible to know it well enough. As time has gone on, I have paid more attention to the slow-moving planets (Saturn and beyond), because these are the ones that represent the deepest, most influential trends. It’s essential to work with these energies in order to use astrology as a growth tool. That’s where you find the healing process. I don’t need to look at my chart anymore to know where those planets are and how they are influencing me.
When I started studying, I would do my own chart every Sunday. As time went by, I internalized my chart so that now I can see it without looking at the page, and I know where the planets are in the sky at any moment. So every time I do any chart, including writing a horoscope column, I can see the connections to my chart, and I continually consider how to use these influences. Occasionally I go to other astrologers for readings.
What do you look at and study, and how do you come up with your final say as to “This is how it all is”?
I never get to that point of ‘This is how it all is’. That’s not a real place; in fact it’s a truly dangerous false place. However it’s possible to observe the flow, the currents, the movements — and to find ways that we can work and flow with them. The sky is constantly changing and the true gift of astrology is to help us work with the changes rather than against them.
In terms of client work, I do my readings as a process, rather than dictating what the chart says. I work closely with my clients to figure out what they have going on in their lives and how they experience their own chart. Then I help them figure out where they’re at, and work with the new astrological events happening at that moment and in the near future.
Are you totally objective with your readings, or does a little subjectivity come into play? Why?
Reading astrology is a balance of subjectivity and objectivity, and then when it’s working it goes beyond both into a creative space, or a healing space. Every astrologer reads from an individual standpoint, based on their values, study and perceptions. The chart is a scientific device that helps us ground into something that is more objective, a little bit removed from the situation, perhaps deeper in.
Yet reading the chart is an interpretive art, much like writing poetry. Every aspect or pattern in the chart is going to be interpreted differently by every astrologer. I understand the role of creativity in the process. What to one astrologer may look like a problem to me looks like an opportunity, but that requires a creative leap. I am then able to guide my clients into seeing the creative opportunities that surround them and are within them. I work the same way in my horoscopes and articles.
Are your readings good for animals, too?
I have a strong connection to animals, and I’ve done some good readings for various situations my clients have had with their critters. I have not made this a specialty, however.
Have couples ever asked you when the best time would be for a child to be born?
I’m not asked that one a lot. Most kids are conceived randomly or by accident, just like when most sex happens. That said, I’m an advocate for people to be more conscious about their creative choices, including when (and whether) to conceive children — and with whom.
If we discovered another planet, how would it affect your readings?
Many new planets have been discovered in our lifetimes. There are now about 500,000 known objects orbiting our Sun, along with the Earth and the planets everyone has heard of. I am a specialist in the newly-discovered planets and I work with them every single day. These planets allow astrologers access to things that they might never find out about, but not surprisingly, there are relatively few who want to go there, or who give the topic of the new planets any credence at all. For me it’s what makes astrology what it is, the beautiful thing that it is. Because new planets are being discovered constantly, I’m always confronted with the unknown.
Are you still writing essays?
Most of what I write is in what you could call essay format, but it’s really a form of literary journalism. I cover many topics in long form; the essays read like very short books that you really feel like you’ve got a take-away when you’re done. My weekly newsletter includes an essay that explores a topic that bridges world events and personal events. My intention is to make the connection obvious; we are participants in the world. We influence it and it influences us, and ultimately they’re the same thing.
Photography is another field that you’ve delved into. Are you still active? How did you come up with the name Book of Blue?
My love of photography comes out of my primary life path, which is being an editor. I never thought of photography as a special skill, just something handy to know in case a photographer didn’t come through or we needed something on the spot. Being an editor gave me the opportunity to work with many excellent photographers, and I learned a lot from all of them, to the point where I am a pretty good photojournalist. I also have this unusual thing where any lover I have also happens to be an excellent photographer, consistently over many years. I have learned a lot from all of them.
Gradually I adopted photography as a mode of personal expression, for the purpose of art and healing. I really got going with this when I acquired my first digital camera in 2005. Soon after, I started Book of Blue, a portraiture project that explores women looking into mirrors. Book of Blue is also the title of an unpublished book of sonnets, some of which I read in 1992 when I was visiting San Francisco. They were in an odd volume of poems called Otherworldly Progenitor. I borrowed the title for my photography project. I had no idea that the term ‘blue cinema’ meant erotic cinema, though this fit the subject of my photos perfectly.
The ‘blue’ theme, the use of mirrors and some other factors led me to an understanding of Tibetan tantra, though I have never read anything about it. It was like I accidentally stumbled into a dimension, and being there has been very rewarding.
Photography is one of the easiest art forms to express myself in. Though it’s often used to deceive, I have found it lends itself beautifully to honesty and clarity. In every woman who is searching for herself in a mirror, I see a reflection of myself. So photography is also a path of healing and growth for me.
How do the different subjects you work with relate to one another? You handle some taboo subjects; how do you do that?
I see the world through a unified mind, so I perceive things that others would perceive as ‘different’ as being the same or similar, as aspects of the whole. Everything I do and experience informs everything else I do and experience. There’s a word for that — holistic. My choice of any creative medium is simply about what is most appropriate or helpful for any given situation. As a writer, it helps to have photographs available to illustrate my work, but moreover to say what I cannot easily say in words.
As for taboo subjects, what else is worth writing about? Most of what you see covered in mainstream books and media specifically avoids real discussion of what we are the most curious about, or troubled by, or fascinated by — sex, death, depth psychology, politics. I see these as all being closely related. The way I handle taboo subjects is by creating high-quality work. No matter how taboo something may be, people recognize careful and loving expression for what it is. Something done well, no matter what the topic, gets a lot of leeway in society.
How does your advice to read A General Theory of Love relate to you personally, and then, you and your work?
A General Theory of Love addresses brain function in the context of family relationships and loving relationships. I was assigned this book during my training as a Hakomi therapist, a method that focuses on the emotional level of existence rather than the intellectual. I am aware of the traumas I suffered as a child and I am seeing how they influence me as an adult. This book helps explain mysteries like why we keep having the same relationships over and over, and why they resemble our family relationships. Many of these patterns show up in the charts, and in the lives, of my clients, so it’s useful to have this background information. When we say we want to change our relationships, or heal our family lives, to a large degree that’s about changing how our brains experience and perceive those things, and how we organize memory. There is a reason why it’s so easy to get stuck in the past, and so challenging to change our patterns — and you’ll find some useful ideas about that in A General Theory of Love. In one word, this is a book about trust. In a sentence, it’s a book about why therapy works when it does.
You would have to be a charismatic person to be with people — pulling from them all kinds of info, pulling out from them great expressions for the camera, and drawing them in as clients. Were you ever shy?
I’ve never been especially shy, but I am an introvert. There is a difference. Being an introvert means living from the inside out. I don’t think people are responding to my charisma when they are willing to be vulnerable with me. I think they’re responding to my sensitivity and appreciation of who they are.
What are you the least shy about?
Of all the things one is supposed to be shy about, I am the least shy about sex and masturbation. I have written hundreds of articles on these subjects, many of which are published and easy to find. I am willing to break the silence and step past the taboo on addressing these themes about which most people are aching to have some authentic and sensitive information. As part of my own healing process, I have created and organized a lot of this information, and I’ve made it available to others. You can read and listen to some of this material on a website called Compersion.net.
If you had any religious or sexual hang-ups in your life, whatever they may be, what methods have you used — or are you currently using — to work through them?
I’ve made the best progress working with a very good therapist, who understood that nearly all sexual hang-ups have their origin in religion. My main method of working through any residual material is to simply be real. Being real does not mean being popular, but I have not let that stop me. One of my most successful methods of growing and learning and getting myself free has been exploring photography and my writing in Book of Blue.
Have you studied psychology?
Not formally, but I am aware of the power of psychology and I tutor myself to psychologists whenever I can. In a sense, astrology is the oldest form of psychology and I have studied that very carefully, in theory and in real life. Psychology is one of the most useful tools we can acquire here, so that we gain understanding into ourselves and the people around us. Of course, if you don’t mind having your life run by the directors of TV commercials and political spin doctors, psychology is not so important.
Have you studied criminology?
I am not that interested in criminology, but I have spent a lot of time studying fraud. That is my journalistic specialty — fraud involving environmental issues, whether by polluters or environmental groups. Understanding fraud involves understanding one of the most important things in any aspect of law: intent. This relates closely to state of mind. It’s a lot subtler in civil law than it is in criminal law, though everyone knows that when someone is accused of murder the first thing that any investigator wants to understand is the motive. That relates to the state of mind issue in fraud. Fraud is an intentional act; it’s not neglect. Understanding intent is therefore key to understanding the rest.
How much of what you do is based on finding a good money-making career, and how much is about being a Renaissance Man who just wants to share it all?
The second is truer than the first, but not strictly so. I do what I do because it’s the thing to do at the time. I have never had making money as a career goal, but after a while it’s an essential ingredient in success. It’s not what motivates me though.
I understand you play the guitar. Where and how does playing fit into your life?
I am learning guitar, which is the latest of my musical explorations. Music is deeply meaningful to me and I want to be able to express it in my own way, so I am learning to play. All of my astrology teachers and both of my therapists have been musicians and nearly all are musical composers. I don’t think this is an accident. I understand that there’s a relationship between music and the cosmos, and it’s a space I love to hang out in as much as I can.