Astrological Myth Busting
Celebrated astrologer Stephen Arroyo brings the bombs. And there are casualties along the way.
A SMALL BOOK you want in your library immediately—whether a student or a professional astrologer—is Stephen Arroyo’s Experiments and Experience With Astrology: Reflections on Methods and Meanings. (2019, by CRCS Publishing).
The book is an arsenal of sure-to-disturb revelations (my favorite kind). An intelligent modification of astrological cliches by one of the art’s premiere free thinkers—a professional with 50-plus years of empirical client-based data to cull from.
Arroyo distances astrology from the so-called ‘traditional revival’ by reminding the reader that interpretive techniques applied to humans 2,000 years ago aren’t a good fit for 21st Century beings maneuvering the End of Days. (I’ve envisioned this last bit of hyperbole, but it’s a sentiment I’d imagine Arroyo agreeing with).
What are astrologers trying to accomplish with this sudden reversion to a past culture’s system? Arroyo suggests:
“Are we trying to create a cult, a religion, an ego trip? Or is it just another of the endless instances…of recycling old theories without testing and modernizing them? Although I have respect for much astrological tradition, I do not hold it in religious reverence.”
Experiments and Experience is a miscellany of cogent, colloquially delivered salvos and 'wake-up calls.’ And astrology—the world’s second oldest profession—sheds pounds of weight along the read.
Here are some of the more intriguing re-seeings and reevaluations that Arroyo presents to the astrological community:
• Retrograde planets. The lore around this phenomenon is “mostly superstitious—couched as it is in fear and negative language.” Retrogrades are no less potent or hobbled than planets that are direct in motion. I ignore retrogrades entirely and have done so for years— unless the planet[s] are in the process of reaching slower motion. Arroyo makes the same observation about a planet’s speed and associates the slower velocity with a planet’s increased potency.
• The Ascendant is something other than the ‘mask’ we wear. This notion became popular when Jung’s concept of the persona got a foothold in astrology in the 80s. And the assertion has outworn its welcome. Arroyo sees the Ascendant as “another example of [a horoscopic] factor being so dynamic, so absolutely essential in a person’s make-up, that people have a hard time seeing it or describing it.” He continues:
“The Ascendant is a gate through which the self…has to flow. Can you project or express yourself, or most of yourself, through that particular gate? If not, can you adjust your life…in some way to enable you to do so more easily?”
• The four elements are the lifeblood of a horoscope. Or, as Arroyo puts it, “The energies represented in astrology—especially the four elements—are real.” Astrology isn’t simply a symbolic art it is a body-based interface between the cosmos and our life here on Earth. And the four elements represented in the horoscope are akin to the roots and the sap of the tree of life.
It’s far more efficacious to pay attention to these essentials than “spending all of your time trying to count and classify every leaf on a tree, which is a job that can never be finished. New leaves [see below on the infiltration of asteroids and dark moons] endlessly burst forth; you can’t keep up with them.”
• The water signs often counter the parroted cliches we associate with the feeling function. As Arroyo notes, all of the Zodiacal symbols associated with the element are cold-blooded creatures.
Arroyo notes: that water is the most ‘unknowable’ of the elements. “Yes, watery people are sensitive,” he writes, “…but often they are far more impersonal than they may appear.”
With 80% of my chart in the water element, I can vouch for this observation. My friendly detachment is in place to keep other folks out of my watery inner sanctum. Water folks swim in a private pool and, despite having their share of the social instincts, often prefer solitude and quiet to the frick and frack of human relations.
• The sign Aries gets short-shifted as the sign tends to ignore others and follow an independent route, which can frustrate folks who strive for cooperation. Arroyo writes:
“I think many would benefit if they paid more attention to Aries people’s perceptions and assessments. And that is for one reason: that those with a strong attunement to Aries sense (and often see) where energy is moving most directly in any situation and circumstance.”
• Astrological ‘readings’ do a client no favors. I’ve long objected to the term ‘readings’ and corrected new clients with the terms ‘consultation’ or ‘inquiry’ when they reference the nature of our time together.
It seems an unwarranted objection, but as Arroyo explains:
“The whole world of astrology is held back by that atmosphere of ‘we do readings.’ Readings imply… one-sided, psychic, fortune-telling analysis. Why bother to do a one-sided reading when you can get feedback from the person who asked you for help? Such astrologers are too wrapped up in showing off.”
Continuing on this theme, I'll share that I turn away a quarter of the folks who contact me for session work. Thousands of consultations with clients have alerted me immediately to requests that seek to unearth fortunetelling-like extravaganzas (finding a soul mate, the million dollar career, etc.).
In my early years, I never turned down a booking, but over time learned that my disappointment at the end of the session—married to the client’s—was too inglorious and depressing.
• Skeptics of astrology? Arroyo advises that you avoid them. As I’ve written, engaging with their arguments wastes time. Having never studied the subject, cynics have no in-depth grasp of astrology, and simply quote hoary attacks handed down from the scientific community or—worse—their childhood church. My pat response, should I deign to engage, is, “Do you follow weather reports? Astrology is no different and tracks the celestial climate penetrating all life on Earth.”
• The astrological field is riddled with professional jealousy. It might be the nature of having to scramble to hold a client base intact, but there’s a stingy, close-to-the-chest vibe amongst astrologers, especially those who write about the art for a living. As Arroyo points out:
“Why do authors of astrology books never refer to other authors? Why don't they ever have any references? There is an almost complete lack of authors’ acknowledgment of the long and beautiful astrological tradition. You never see anything resembling scholarship…”
• Asteroids, comets, dark moons, and the sundry clutter that clogs a horoscope have got to be scrapped.
For me, this was the most satisfying section in the book, as I’ve conducted a prolonged campaign of returning the horoscope to the basics: 2 lights, 5 traditional planets, 3 transpersonals, 12 signs and houses, a sprinkling of aspects.
With those components, you have more than enough for a complete horoscope. And a sound impetus to launch your inquiry. What more does one need? And more importantly, why?
In a wonderfully kookie passage from Douglas Donleavy, from the British Astrological Association, Arroyo reprints the author’s frustrations with the glut of unnecessary effluvia injected into the horoscope:
“…we have added 2 planetoids (Chiron and Charon), 4 senior asteroids (Ceres, Juno, Pallas, Vesta), 1 fictional moon (Lillith), 6 junior asteroids (Sappho, Hidalgo, Eros, Toro, Icarus and the other Lillith), plus who knows how many transplutonian planets, Arabic parts, occultations, imaginary moons of imaginary planets…Coming soon, no doubt, will be shadow suns, the Galactic Planes, meaningful meteorites, and bewitching black holes. It seems every new body possesses a special significance not quite like any older body but not all that different either.
The point of this chapter is to return the astrologer to a baseline approach to chart synthesis. While also suggesting Arroyo’s suspicion that all of the clutter that’s been added to the horoscope reveals a novice astrologer’s inability to successfully glimpse the heart of the horoscope. Arroyo adds:
“It seems today that so many astrologers are evidently trying to make things as complex as possible, just for the sake of demonstrating pseudo-cleverness, without any clearly defined goal or direction…I maintain, rather than helping us to achieve chart synthesis and thus a meaningful evaluation of the person’s major life themes, putting too many factors in a chart makes it harder to discrimiante between the significant themes and peripheral details.”
There is much more to this dynamo of a book than these cherry-picked highlights that piqued my approval. If it’s true that we gravitate to art and writing that reflects our proclivities, well, yes—I stand accused. And this book states with eloquence and precision solid techniques to help the astrologer align—once again—with astrology’s poetry and magic.
Most fascinating and hard to weave into this short overview is Arroyo’s wide-ranging command of hardwon insights into human nature. Not as related to astrology per se, but from his four-decades career as a professional psychological counselor.
He intermixes just enough of modern advancements in astrology with the key elements (like rulerships) he’s brought forward from the traditional school. But the acknowledgments of astrology’s oldest applications came not from blind, untested repetition but from Arroyo’s experience—trials and errors—with interpretation.
That the book is only 125 pages long and packs triple the wallop of tomes that drone on for 500 pages is a true feat of Aries succinctness and boldness. And yes, Arroyo has an Aries ascendant. (But knows how to deliver his innovations in a velvet glove—he’s a Libra, after all).
As Paul McCartney once sang, “Ram on, baby.” And yes, please do. Order your copy today.