|The State of Astrology |
Dear Friend and Client:
In its winter issue, The Mountain Astrologer published an essay on The State of Astrology by Jeff Jawer. It is an overview of the state of our profession here at the edge of the 21st century and in the long, dark hour before dawn of the Aquarian Age.
"I've often wondered," Jeff writes, "why today's astrology -- filled with bright, creative people -- has not launched one of us into the public eye. Not only are we astrologers absent from the mainstream media, but we have not even taken a significant place onstage with our New Age siblings." At New Age events such as New Life Expo, he says, you never have one of the more famous astrologers sitting alongside Jean Houston, Ram Dass or Deepak Chopra.
If nobody minds, I'll take a shot at this one.
If anyone understood what astrology is, things might be a little easier. Just about everyone with an education still thinks the primary function of an astrologer is to tell the future. It's not that we're not present in the mainstream media; indeed, we are in every edition of just about every newspaper and every magazine. And what we are expected to write are forecasts, and to fit them in 75 words per sign. But since CNN does not care whether someone is going to have a good month for romance, we're also expected to play Nostradamus and know when big nasty stuff is going to go down. Not, of course, so we can save lives (imagine evacuating the World Trade Center on an astrologer's say-so). The benefit would be that everyone would be impressed.
Let's pretend I'm on Larry King Live, along with Marianne Williamson.
Larry: So Mr. Francis, you're a professional astrologer. Based on your research, when is the world going to end?
Eric: Well, Larry, I'm not the kind of astrologer who dictates the future. I'm more the kind of astrologer who helps people make choices, work on their personal growth and investigate spiritual questions. Even my forecast columns tend to take the spiritual-psychological approach rather than a predictive one.
Larry: So you're a minister and psychologist?
Eric: Well no, actually I was an English major, and then I worked as an investigative reporter covering PCBs.
Larry: Let's switch to Marianne Williamson. Marianne, what do people need to do in order to be happier?
Marianne: Well, Larry, they need to love and forgive one another, and not make such harsh demands of themselves.
In a media marketplace where everything needs to be clearly defined, astrology is completely ill-prepared to stand its ground. Marianne Williamson is a preacher; her job is to preach; she does a fine job of it. She actually has a congregation. We know who Marianne is. We know she has something to say. Larry knows what to ask her.
But what is astrology's ground? I have my ideas. Astrology helps us set the larger context for the lives we live, in the age in which we live them. It helps us define the meeting points between a society and an individual. This involves assisting people in making adjustments specific to the time and place in which we are living. Is that newsworthy? What would grandma think?
Yet there are so many different kinds of astrology and so many different technical and philosophical approaches and so many astrologers out there predicting when asteroids will hit the Earth and when George Bush will be abducted by aliens (that already happened, actually) that there seems to be total anarchy. Some astrologers read the future; others do Jungian analysis; others tell you about your karma. This raging diversity is one of the great strengths of astrology. Plus, the fact that it appears as a time-honored tradition in every culture demonstrates that it's organic. Yet it is rare to get any two astrologers to agree on anything, including what sign the moon is in. A lot of the time Vedic astrology will give you one answer and Western astrology will give you another. How can that be meaningful in the minds of people who don't know that there are two zodiacs, and that that's okay?
Not that the media is, in general, especially meaningful. There is simply not time for that. Astrology does not lend itself well to making vast generalizations in sound-bite format. Oh, it often tries, like when you read the predictions for the year ahead in The National Enquirer, and there it usually fails miserably. We have a very serious credibility problem on our hands. As Geoffrey Cornelius points out, astrology does not own up to its own mistakes, even though it makes many.
On the other hand, just about the only way to become really really famous as an astrologer is to predict a disaster, no matter what else you may have predicted. (The word "disaster" means against the stars.) One example is the somewhat vague prediction of the Kennedy assassination by Jeanne Dixon. In order to play that lottery, quite a few astrologers predict disasters in hope that one will come true, and then they'll be famous.
The Skeptic's Dictionary writes that, "Dixon achieved a reputation as a very good psychic, however, when the mass media perpetuated the myth that she had predicted President Kennedy's assassination. In 1956 she predicted in Parade magazine that the 1960 election would be won by a Democrat and that he would die in office, 'although not necessarily in his first term'. However, in 1960, apparently forgetting or overriding her earlier prediction, she predicted unequivocally that 'John F. Kennedy [will] fail to win the presidency'."
Also according to the Skeptic's Dictionary, Dixon predicted that the Soviets would beat the U.S. to the moon, and that World War III would begin in 1958. When that didn't happen, they report that she predicted there would be a cure for cancer in 1967.
Okay, not such impressive astrological work, but skeptics would do well to turn their penetrating eye on the media and ask why such nonsense is given credibility. (The answer is that it has entertainment value.) Some astrologers would be better off sticking to "Wear mauve. Taurus plays a role."
All of the people that Jeff Jawer named as out-front New Age spiritual leaders -- Ram Dass, Jean Houston and Deepak Chopra -- have substantial educational credentials. They have all been through the church of reason, and thus they know how to reason. Ram Dass is the former Harvard University Prof. Richard Alpert. Jean Houston is a Ph.D. psychologist who has been part of every human potential project since the days of Moses. Her bio reads, "She is an internationally renowned psychologist, philosopher and teacher, and has served on the faculties of psychology, philosophy, and religion at Columbia University, New York University, and the University of California." Deepak Chopra bears the official certification of Demigod: he's a medical doctor.
All of these people, along with Marianne Williamson, have sold millions of books and gotten themselves onto the big money lecture circuit. They have done so because they have refined their message, written clearly, and convinced a major publisher to get their work going. Then they sold a lot of books. Ram Dass, the least famous author among them, probably has the most famous book, and the most mystical -- the seminal Be Here Now.
Most astrologers are educated people, but few have established themselves as intellectual authorities in the mainstream world prior to stargazing, as seems to be one big formula for success in a spiritual profession. The best predictive astrologer I know is a real estate agent. He explained why. The checks are bigger. A few power-intellectuals are lurking in the wings of astrology -- Rick Tarnas, for example, is a world-renowned historian, author (The Passion of the Western Mind) and professor. Most of what he writes about in astrology is history -- the past. As opposed to the future. He can predict things that happened in 1850. Personally, I think that's really interesting, but would Larry King get it?
But here is the real issue. We have not seen a best-selling astrological author in the mainstream market since Linda Goodman, and that was a long time ago. At least she proved it can be done. One problem is that few writers are able to convey astrology in a way that anyone can get down with. Generally, astrology is not presented in an engaging or original way, much less exciting, and it makes little sense to mortal man. Astrology unfortunately has a bad habit of making itself irrelevant. Astrology books, consequently, tend to sell a few thousand copies if they are lucky, and even the best ones are usually taken out of print before they have a chance to establish themselves. I assure you that if an astrologer sold a few million books, or even a few hundred thousand books, any astrologer, they would be most welcome on a panel with Ram Dass, whether he or she had a Ph.D. or not.
Not that science is doing so well at this particular game, either.
Quick. Name a famous scientist in pop culture. Um, Carl Sagan. Okay wait, he already left. Um, Steve Hawking. Why is he famous? Um, I don't know. He's talks like a computer and writes books by flicking his eyeballs. He got on The Simpsons. Quick, name another scientist. Um, Madam Curie. Okay okay wait Thomas Edison. Alfred Einstein. ++
Planet Waves by Eric Francis
Capricorn Birthdays for Jan. 10-17
Awareness can conveniently be divided into two realms: the conscious and the unconscious. One is the region of normal sensory and cognitive data; the other, what hides in all the hidden dimensions, sub, super, inter and beyond. Both realms are powerfully at work, and your job right now is to build bridges between them. To do so, you're going to act as a kind of messenger within your own reality, carrying observations back and forth. You'll need to be continuously questioning what you observe, what you sense intuitively, and -- most important -- what you notice is missing from the picture. Then your task is to study all the various contrasts, and then do what good lawyers do best: spot the issues. No doubt that a continuing examination of your past is in order, but not the "picking over" kind of examination; rather, the aforementioned hunt for contrasts, the observant review of history, the careful quest for self-understanding. The rare jewel of your solar return chart is an opportunity to get a grasp on one issue or injury from which you have always run. This condition has influenced your life far more than you've been willing to admit. Find out what it is, find out how it's been driving you, and you will finally begin to understand the elusive concept of freedom. But even better, you will get your first real idea in a long time about what you can actually do to have a bit more of the stuff in your life.
Aries (March 20-April 19)
You have every reason to stand up for your highest ideals, but it would be far better use of the current planetary setup to live those ideals more fully than ever. Put them to work. Take inspiration from yourself. You are in near-perfect alignment with qualities of yourself that are both rare and often very difficult to access when they do exist. You know what is right and what is true. Once this ceases to be a matter of theory and enters the world of tangible reality, you will feel the enormous confidence that you have worked for, and that you deserve. And when Mercury stations retrograde on the 20th, I suspect you will begin to see the benefits of your current actions.
Taurus (April 19-May 20)
Questions of how you relate to members of your own sex are beginning to percolate to the surface of your thoughts about relationship. This could be in any context, from friendship to sexual intimacy. The deeper situation, as I see it, is that past experiences of being hurt are also calling for attention, and it would be well-invested energy to explore these issues and do some healing work. Very likely you'll find that the people in your life, perhaps those who have been involved in past injuries, will be cooperative and open about how they feel and how to make amends. The important thing is that everyone acknowledges their inner truth, and shares it. If no one else is available, then admit your inner truth to yourself, because at the moment, you're your own best friend.
Gemini (May 20-June 21)
The pressure is on. You may be feeling an impulse to bolt from a particularly hurtful or challenging situation. But there is another option, which is to take the greatest risk possible and simply see what happens. It would help if you sized up that risk and a few possible outcomes so you're working within a sense of your limits. Among the less savory possibilities are some degree of financial loss, emotional hurt and a sense that you may lose your power within the situation. Check through these potentials calmly, and size them up against what you are hoping to gain or accomplish through the situation. Partnership of any kind is challenging, and it's especially so when emotions become involved.
Cancer (June 21-July 22)
You may be noticing a building of intensity in certain relationship situations, and the sense that important people in your life have no clue what they want is probably not helping you feel any more secure. But what you're getting is one of the best opportunities for an exercise in detachment you've had in quite a while. The Cancerian spirit is anything but aloof. Introspective, yes, but you don't thrive on distance or being impersonal. But if you can access those inner qualities for a moment, they will very likely guide things in the right direction. The point is, the people you care about the most have to go through their thing, which is their thing, not yours. They will not forget you.
Leo (July 22-Aug 23)
You need to weigh carefully the possibility that other people know what's best for you. I know you're not above acknowledging this. There is a lot to be said for making your own decisions, and no doubt, your instincts have you on high alert at the moment. You may have the feeling you're avoiding a health issue, which may translate to a mental health issue. I don't see a reason to rush to a conclusion and I see a few reasons to take a deep breath and gather information. The most important facts you need are elements of historical data from your own life. Trace the history of the situation, collect dates, and get a sense of when your fears were running the highest. That alone will speed your healing, and give you concrete information to work with if you seek expert advice.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
Self-control is not self-esteem. No form of control can substitute for actually feeling good about yourself, though our culture often equates the two. Beneath the impulse to control is a deeper issue, which may be an addiction to danger, which has as the other side of its coin an attachment to a particular image you're trying to convey to the world. One thing we can say about your current solar chart is that you now have the ability to see both sides of an issue, and to read what's inscribed around the edge of the coin. There are certain facts about yourself that you now have little choice but to acknowledge. If you can do so gently and honestly, an old, painful split that you've been struggling with will finally begin to heal.
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
Libra is the sign of balance, but the inner sphere of Libra is more like the hot core of the Earth, which is constantly shifting, rearranging itself, and boiling with pressure. This is especially true now. What is most important to you is changing, and as you identify just what that is (for now) it seems awfully daring to even consider going there. I would say it's worth the risk, but the truth is you don't have a lot of choice in the matter. There are vast dimensions of yourself that you're ready to let go of, indeed, most of your previous definitions and concepts of who you are. But this is not a process that happens in a vacuum. At the same time, a greater adventure unfolds. They happen together.
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
Let's have a moment of silence for all the marriages that were supposed to work out so beautifully but somehow failed. Let's remember all the dreams we shared with people, the deep commitments we made, the love we offered, the love we made, and the trust we shared, which failed, or disappointed us, or that led to deep injuries. Let's remember how hard we tried, how much we offered, and how faithfully we gave it, only to learn that that's not a guarantee of anything. Let's remember the points where we could not come through with what we promised in some of our most meaningful relationships, no matter how truly we wanted to. If we can do this, a new day will dawn.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22 - Dec. 22)
We learn by contrast, and this is certainly working well in your life these days. First order of business, at least according to your solar chart, is the question, "What is a woman?" Not enough words are retired from the language because they convey so many meanings as to be meaningless, but woman is one that could use a good look. The contradictions include pre-programmed demands that one appear this way, but really feel this way; that one want one thing and seek another; that one is expected to act as the passive party or victim, while really being the hidden executor of the grand plan. There are no easy ways to sort out these various paradoxes, but you will need to begin the process in order to have a sane relationship with yourself, and to some of the more important people in your life.
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
There are two kinds of freedom: freedom to, and freedom from. I imagine that both are summoning you right now, in a burning way. It would be wise to question the reality of situations from which you think you can't get away, as well as to investigate the truth of those situations where you've felt you could not get yourself into. The astrology suggests that these are old circumstances which just became part of the natural landscape of your life. You are in the midst of very significant personal changes where these questions are concerned. There are two requirements, one being that you not be afraid to fall, and the other, that you not be afraid to fly.
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
Keep practicing the art of looking through. Much of life is woven of illusions, that is, of the unreal that is perceived as real. Whether we take what is past for what is present, whether we think what we want is what's really there, or whether we assume a person is someone else, the only way to get free is to look through the image to the truth. This may be working on the level of your own mind at the moment: for example, with the question, what do you really think? If what you think today is the same as what you thought yesterday, then you may be looking straight at something that's simply not true. Consider this a time of profound re-evaluation. The moment you encounter what seems to be a fact or a belief, check its license.
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
You are shifting through a set of gears, headed for interstellar overdrive. The important thing is that you shift slowly and carefully, and adjust your speed and choice of road according to the weather and the terrain. In general, at least through the end of Mercury retrograde around the 20th of the month, a little too slow is preferable to a little too fast. Meanwhile, I want to suggest an exercise. Check through all your sources of professional income, one at a time, and get a sense of their viability, whether the contract is up to date, whether you've actually been paid, and whether your paperwork is in order. This will offer you the feeling of wings under your feet, and a good view of the landscape.
How do newspaper horoscopes work?
Planet Waves Weekly and PlanetWaves.net are edited by Eric Francis, with help from Chelsea Bottinelli, Pam Purdy and the Planet Waves Editorial Consortium. If you would like to be on our discussion list, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the word Vision in the subject header -- that's important. It may take us a week or so to get back to you, and admission to the Vision List is by interview only. We encourage our readers to contribute their artwork and writing to the Planet Waves project and to cultivate themselves as creative forces in the unusual and socially formative times in which we live.