Is Astrology Making You Crazy?
Anosognosia: A condition in which a person with a disability is cognitively unaware of having it.
I SUPPOSE A LESS PROVOCATIVE title would be Is Astrology Waylaying Your Willpower? Feel free to replace the clickbait title with this other one. Your call. Although, on the flip, both titles might apply.
Some versions of those questions have been banging around my head for years now. I work every day with clients who trust me to talk with them about important things like meaning and dreaming. Always, running beneath the ground of our exchange is my commitment to maintain a sane, realistic approach to their inquiry.
During the last decade, I’ve developed an exaggerated cynicism about contemporary astrology—especially as it’s presented on the Internet. Learn your life’s true purpose! Embrace your authentic self!! Marry your soulmate!!!
None of these highflown promises can ever be fulfilled by astrology or an astrologer. And yet, as astrology continues to degrade into viral memes and idiotic quizzes, more and more inexperienced, uneducated astrologers are hanging shingles and blowing up social media feeds.
With a natal Mars in Pisces, I’m hyper-attuned to protecting the vulnerable and defenseless. I cannot watch, read or listen to anything that involves harming animals or children. And when people consult with astrologers, they are a combination of those qualities: vulnerable and defenseless.
People are often drawn to astrology because their volition has gone offline. This failure of faculty can occur for a myriad of reasons (rarely have I ever met or worked with a client where his or her willpower was operating at optimal levels). But dependence on astrological insights can foster a limiting kind of magical thinking. A passivity that requires a stream of astrological data to sustain the rationale for not engaging with life. “I’ll wait until Jupiter is conjunct my Mars and then get out of bed.”
And online, there are scores of dimwits ready and willing to provide this kind of misguided ‘guidance.’ Many of them via videos and podcasts.
Used Car Salesman Vibes
Yesterday, while producing new content to publish on YouTube, I spent a day investigating a cavalcade of astro-themed videos on the platform. Aside from considering who in the fuck watches a 90-minute video talking about what one can expect from a new Moon in Sagittarius, I sat back, disenchanted, and moved my attention along the darker outline of a childhood memory. Namely, the time when, as a teenager, my dad took me to a nuthouse to visit a recently admitted family member.
All of the videographed astro-gobbledegook I’d watched yesterday generated the same dissonant sound of crazy that I’d fixated on while my dad met with his sister in her beige-decorated space. Nonsensical muttering from the bodies milling the hallway outside my aunt’s hospital room.
Physician Heal Thyself
A friend asked me the other day if the transits to my natal horoscope indicated this or that about a particular event I was invested in. I texted back and explained that I only consult my chart a couple of times each year to get a basic theme or lay of the land for each season. I’d stopped hovering over my chart years ago. And in doing so, I felt relief and release by simply living life instead of framing its every pulse within astrology’s endless variety of explanations.
Over time my personal relationship with astrology evolved into employing the art to viscerally sense the epic, longer trends within culture and history. The significance of a single life—mine—despite it being part and parcel of those glacial cycles, once acknowledged, functions with more alacrity when it isn’t being micro-managed through astrology’s too-tight interpretations.
The shrill ‘me-me-me’ clarion call of popular astrology is turned way down. This permits the music of the spheres to find an open channel and clearer reception.
The Do It Yourself Artform
If astrology is considered a religion or spiritual practice, then it must also be subjected to the same skepticism that all religions are subject to. Namely, awareness of the risk of being manipulated within the power dynamic between aspirants and those priests, gurus, rabbis, and experts that assume authority or control.
To distance oneself from this potential for misguidance or, worse, grift, I always recommend to my more serious-minded clients that they learn the art of astrology for themselves.
Astrologer Carl Payne Tobey wrote of his friend, Grant Lewi, the 1940s father of pop astrology:
“Grant believed that a person’s life is something very individual and personal…He felt the same way about a horoscope. It was something very individual and personal that was only for its owner. He would be glad to help with it if someone needed help, but one should learn all about it for one’s self.”
You might wonder: So what’s the point of astrologers then?
Well, my answer is annoyingly subjective, but I’ll offer it nonetheless. Astrology is one of the first acts you can undertake to give your life back over to the mystery of nature.
“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our…being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” —Joseph Campbell
Astrology can assist you in putting in higher detail the kaleidoscopic compendium of selves that comprise your ‘me project’. Seemingly separate identities who scramble to define and dominate ‘the world according to you.’
Acknowledging this wild array of sometime-strangers is liberating. These intrinsic facets of the self—once touched upon—are made recognizable and then transparent. As a compendium of forces, they reveal the sort of animal you (already) are, the miraculous creature you were born into this life as.
But first, they must be consciously acknowledged.
From Shadow to Space
Overhearing a group of his hardcore colleagues attempt to describe the archetype of the ‘shadow,’ Carl Jung interrupted the nattering group and offered, “The shadow is the entirety of the unconscious. Stfu.” Or something to that effect.
Shadow components, once illuminated, give way to an emptying-out process. A divestment that returns a person to his or her baseline. Baseline reality is liberating. But also unnerving.
From baseline, there are no stories or rationales to mold or ‘guide’ one’s life. The baseline perspective accepts the unknowability of existence. A life lived free from the meaning-making we’re constantly enwrapping our life within. The ‘rapture of being alive,’ as Campbell puts it.
I believe that setting everything else aside—career, love, family, fame, fortune—this conceptual-free sort of freedom is what each of us longs for. And from that open-ended quality of aliveness, new possibilities for self-expression emerge. From there, the sky is the limit—love, family, whatever—but underlying each investment is freedom’s lubricant. Everything runs so much smoother, including gliding into one’s death when that moment arrives.
The Last Word
A truthful approach to astrology is to admit that none of us can ever truly know the handiwork of our fate; our life possesses its own rhyme and reason, and it is best to just get on with living. To engage and keep moving, regardless of the astrological portents.
I remember reading an interview with Jungian astrologer Liz Greene some years back—and a particular insight of hers regarding the proper attitude between astrologer and client has colored my work with clients for years.
I get clients who try to make me into [a guru], and I despair, because I know from the outset that if someone is coming for a chart with that kind of mentality, whatever I give them, they are going to be disappointed because it won't be The Answer. In fact, I try to avoid clients who come with that package, because I don't want it.
They are looking for a parent/deity who will make them safe and give them the answers that will allow them not to be afraid any more. While I have a lot of compassion for that state—we all go through it one way or another—it isn't the business of astrology to address it.
The insights astrology offers go the other way. All of them really point to: “Get on with it. Get a life and work at it.” These insights don't provide cosmic answers. I think any astrologer who uses astrology to provide answers of that kind is probably not doing their job very realistically.
Walking Through the Door Into Your Own Life
Freud summed up life when he said it’s all about: “...work and love.” And I’ve found that when work and love combine, there’s an uncanny correlation to the natal position of one’s Saturn. This is why when clients come to me with questions about what to ‘do’ I focus on the natal Saturn placement as it offers clues as to how work and love combine.
Astrology can indeed assist, throw light, and flip the switch in one’s imagination. Sky’s the limit.
To close on an upbeat note, consider this famous decree from the writer William Hutchison Murray, who was a formidable mountain climber and knew a few things about engagement and ‘getting on with it.’ He wrote:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.”
“All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
PS: I have an announcement. More details soon.