“My husband doesn’t believe in this stuff, but I’d like to come in for a Couple’s Reading anyway.”
“My parents are Christians and would really disapprove of me being here, so I’m not telling them I’m getting this reading.”“Do you really believe in astrology, or is this an act you’re putting on to get business? C’mon, you can tell me the truth.”
Do you really believe in astrology?
My purpose in offering the above quotes is not to ridicule them; I understand where they are coming from. After all, astrology has commonly been viewed in the modern era as A) the worst kind of superstitious nonsense and/or B) a threat to fundamental Christianity. As an astrologer, I’ve sometimes felt the need to be “in the closet” due to my career in academia and when speaking with Christian family members and family friends. I’m very aware that as soon as I mention that I’m an astrologer in mixed company, I may face a wide range of judgment and criticism, from being branded a practitioner of the Dark Arts (unfortunately, this is not an exaggeration), to pitiful dismissal (academics sometimes assume my IQ to be far less than theirs).
For a long time, I believed that the religious right and scientists were the two groups that held the most enmity toward my chosen profession. However, following a short radio appearance on NPR’s Marketplace in 2008, I found that the (supposedly) liberal and open-minded secular humanists were another group I could add to the list (read the comments on this NPR episode for hours of entertainment). These are generalizations, of course. I’ve met many individuals within each of these groups who are open to the possibility of astrology’s validity as a discipline. But unfortunately I have encountered more opposition than acceptance within these groups.
I’ve sometimes wondered why I chose such a “strange” career - one that too often requires explanation, rationalization, and justification. Throughout my Neptune Square Neptune transit I've been haunted by the recurring question: “Do I really believe in astrology?”
The recent “13th Sign” business brought this question up for review, not only for me, but for the general populous. I was amazed at with what force the story took hold; people got seriously freaked by the possibility that their sun sign was no longer their sun sign. I had several phone calls and emails from clients, all wondering if this was really true, or if it was garbage. I published a short version of a response here at FindAnAstrologer. But the whole thing is still rankling to me, primarily because there are aspects of astrology which still seem arbitrary to those outside of the field, and as dogmatic as any religion.
Whether I'm consulting a client who asks me what Mars in Pisces means in their birth chart, or why I use the Placidus house system over Porphyry, I have to confront the fact that my explanations just MIGHT sound like justifications of an unscientific nature. Note my emphasis on understanding that it can sound like that. Similarly, many of the intellectually sound, cogent explanations offered by astrologers over the "13th Sign Debate" could have been perceived by outsiders as weak justifications of astrological dogma.
During the media blitz, one astronomer was quick to assert that astrology is a “belief system,” while astronomy is a "hard science." She was trying to be kind to astrology, I think, but it still felt like a condescending pat on the head to a 5-year-old. And so, I had to ask myself: how much of what I operate from as an astrologer is belief, and how much is science?
If science is the correlation of data with theory over time, I argue that there is a primarily scientific component to astrology, and that it is not only a “belief system.” Thousands of astrologers have been observing correlations between chart and client for thousands of years. We have amassed databases of information - both modern and arcane, such as the writings of the ancient astrologers up through today, collections of charts of well-known and accomplished people, and the private collections of numerous astrologers who have carefully studied the experiences of clients who return, again and again, to receive readings.
But I must admit that my belief enters prominently into this equation. Because astrology “works” time and again simply by the profound observation that it resonates with clients on a deep level. And that is a subjective experience that is hard to quantify scientifically. How can I measure the “effectiveness” of a reading? How can I know if it was “right”? In some cases, I can’t. But I can see this mystery at work in a tangible way - by the look on my client’s face, through their positive feedback, and by virtue of their return visits.
When I am reading the chart of a stranger, and they tell me that within 15 minutes, I’ve managed to get to the heart of an issue that they’ve been struggling with for a lifetime, but couldn’t name - I know that I’ve connected with something both deeply archetypal AND personal. My ability to understand the symbolic language of astrology and apply that knowledge to the birth chart has allowed me to do this. And I have witnessed it time and again as a powerfully effective tool for healing and self-understanding.
As an astrologer, I hope that I will always continue to ask myself the questions - not only “Do I really believe?” but “Why do I?” Otherwise, I face the possibility of becoming as closed-minded and dogmatic as astrology’s opponents. So, thank you to that astronomer for bringing up the 13th Sign. For not only has it spurred a public dialogue about astrology, it helped me to see that, as it turns out, I do really believe in astrology.
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