The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 124, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Amaya Rourke
Episode originally released on September 19, 2017
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: email@example.com
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released June 22, 2023
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CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode is recorded on Wednesday, September 13, 2017, starting just after 1:00 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 124th episode of the show. For more information about how to subscribe to the podcast and help support the production of future episodes by becoming a patron, please visit theastrologypodcast.com/subscribe.
This is kind of a unique episode where I’m gonna be talking with a student of astrology named Amaya Rourke who contacted me to get some advice about different options for getting a well-rounded education in astrology. During the course of the show we’re gonna talk about some of the pros and cons associated with the four major educational routes that you can take if you want to study astrology within the context of a specific school or certification program. So with that introduction out of the way, let’s get started with the discussion. So thanks a lot for joining me today.
AMAYA ROURKE: Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I’m really surprised that you wanted to answer this question for me on your podcast.
CB: Yeah, so I thought this would be a good discussion topic just because I feel like I’ve fielded different variations of some of these questions, or this question, a few times in the past, and I thought it would be best to, instead of writing out a long email to you, to actually have a discussion and talk about some of the specific points and things related to it ‘cause other people might find this useful. So why don’t we start just by introducing you. What’s your name and what’s your background? Where are you at this point in your studies of astrology?
AR: Sure. So I’m Amaya Rourke, and I have been studying and practicing astrology really informally, kind of on and off for the last eight years. It just kind of goes in fits and starts. I obviously have had a whole other career besides this. So I decided in the last few months—actually since the February eclipse where it went into Pisces—I felt like really, really drawn to just pursue this full time. And thankfully I have the resources and the support system to do that, but I really feel scattered—like really, really scattered because I haven’t had that formal education, and I really wanted something that was a lot more methodical and systematic in approach. And I love astrology. So it wasn’t like, “Oh, I just want to learn a few techniques.” It was like I’d like to basically have a college diploma in it, which I know no college really teaches astrology. But if there was anything close to that out there, that’s what I was kind of looking for. And in searching I became really, really confused, so that’s why I reached out to you. And you’ve been really generous in helping me and answering some questions, so that’s why we’re talking right now.
CB: Sure. And we talked a little bit about it through Twitter, but I thought it might be quicker and more effective just to have an extended discussion about some of these points here today. So I guess that’s your primary thing, and the first thing you asked was just, “Are there any college-level diploma programs that will cover a certain range of things?” ‘Cause you really wanted a broad program that would essentially cover everything, right?
AR: Yeah, obviously I reached out to you. ‘Cause I went to your website and I had really been eyeing your book and your programs, and I was like, “Wow, someone’s really gotta have a pretty strong background to write a 700-page book on Hellenistic astrology,” so then I started reading about Chris Brennan. And I went and looked up Kepler and it looked really promising, and I started asking some questions and it was like a rabbit hole. It was like, “Wow, this is like the beginning of a whole new world.”
CB: Sure. And you wrote out in some of your notes some of the specific things that you kind of expected or wanted from a diploma-level course, right? What were some of those, again?
AR: Like history, anthropology, myth, cultural significance, psychology, the math of astrology. The math especially, I’m definitely not very strong in that. I think what’s probably our biggest curse in this day and age is we’ve got computers that do everything, and I would love to be able to do that without a device. Implications and shortcomings of astrology. There’s not very many programs that really cover that. The use of astronomy in astrology. Different types of astrology. Basically just a very broad, broad, broad. Philosophy. I think that philosophy is huge because that’s the base of everything. That’s how you come up with the methodology of why it works and how it works. So there was a lot that I wanted covered and maybe it’s too idealistic.
CB: Sure. I mean, those are all things that some programs have tried to cover in the past. And it’s a little tricky because then there’s also a distinction between what is the goal ultimately that you’re aiming for. One of the questions that I often ask people when they start asking about degree programs or certification programs is: Is your personal goal that you think the certification itself is important because you’d like to have some kind of external thing that you can point to, to show people your credentials as you move into this field and as you try to establish yourself? Or are you more focused on the education itself and the quality of what you want to learn, and getting as much out of that as you possibly can by finding the best program? Because those are not necessarily always one and the same thing, or at least there’s different considerations that go into those depending on which one’s perhaps more important to you.
AR: Right. I honestly am not and have never been very concerned with certifications ‘cause as you know a lot of astrologers don’t work with certification. It’s kind of like tarot. It’s really hard to make an objective standard for everyone. But I definitely wanted a high quality education about it. ‘Cause I think that if you’ve got a really good, high quality education that covers all this, plus the practical application of it, you would be able to get certified, take a test, and prove that you have the chops to have that special little certificate on your website. But, for me, it really is like I just want to dive deep, and I don’t want to have to buy every book under the Sun and try to wade through it myself. I think that’s very confusing and ineffective. I’d rather there be a program that’s very streamlined and kind of goes through these things at least to a baseline-to-medium level, and that’s really what I was looking for. It’s like a bachelor’s degree; bachelor’s degrees only get you so far. It’s really when you get into the master’s and the PhD’s that you really have this really deep knowledge on one topic.
But if I could get that bachelor’s degree that kind of gives you the broad perspective then from there I can choose, okay, am I really drawn to Vedic? Am I really drawn to Uranian? Like what arm do I want to use? I personally am using the whole sign system, but that may change with studying different systems. And I think that it’s good to have a very good base where you have this touch-point on all these different things and then make a choice to go and pursue one thing over the other.
CB: Right. Definitely. On the one hand, I was kind of fortunate because there was a program sort of like that about a decade ago, which was essentially the original incarnation of Kepler College. For most astrologers going into a larger program that’s being taught by a school of astrologers the benefit is—if it’s a broad enough school—that you’re gonna get a broad overview of a bunch of different systems of astrology. And the thing that I didn’t understand when I first went there—or maybe that I sort of vaguely understood, but I didn’t get the full implications of—is that sometimes in the process of doing that you’re gonna be forced to study other types of astrology that you otherwise might overlook or put off or otherwise avoid studying for whatever reason, even though they could turn out to be really interesting and useful and important.
Maybe a good early statement to make here in this discussion in terms of the difference between studying on your own and sort of randomly trying to read as many books as you can, or going through, sort of blindly, different areas that look more or less interesting versus studying with somebody with somebody else is that one of the big benefits of course is they have more years and more time working on that. And so, they can give you kind of a shortcut to what areas you should know about or should study, and sometimes they’ll prompt you to study things that otherwise you might put off or avoid studying. And, for me, that actually turned out to be a really big deal in terms of going to Kepler originally, 10 years ago; they forced me to take a course on Hellenistic astrology. And I initially protested that ‘cause I wanted to specialize in and wanted to study modern psychological astrology.
And it was kind of a fluke that in the second year of their program, they didn’t have the psychological track ready yet by the time I got there. But instead they had this East-West track set up where they did a series of classes comparing Indian astrology with different forms of Western astrology, one of which was Hellenistic. But, basically, I got forced to take that class and then fell deeply in love with the study of Hellenistic astrology and spent the subsequent 10 years studying it and writing a book on it, which I just published earlier this year. And it sounds like that’s something you’re already aware of, but it’s maybe something to get out of the way from the start that one of the benefits of studying with somebody else is sometimes they can know more than you do, in the sense that they know the direction that you might want to head, even if it’s something that otherwise might feel uncomfortable or that you might not do yourself if you were trying to set your own path of study.
AR: Right. I totally agree with that. And I’ll say it’s hard when you first get started to choose between all of those different things. And I don’t know how many people will agree with this, but I felt that when I graduated, barely turning 17, I wasn’t in a position to choose a college degree, but I was forced into a position where I had to. And so, that’s kind of how it feels when you start looking through all this. You can either go and find a whole bunch of online courses—I have an interest in Hellenistic astrology, that’s why I’ve been looking at your course—but also there’s so many other arms of it. And you may have a preconceived notion of what you think you’re going to be interested in, but you’re not 100% certain of it. And when I started looking at all the options, it was certainly dizzying to try to pick through and figure out which one was really gonna be most interesting or applicable.
And that’s why, again, I reached out to you. ‘Cause I was like, honestly, from what I can tell, you had a much broader education on all of this than just, “Hey, here’s Hellenistic astrology.” You have to have, I believe, a broader base of knowledge to fall so in love with something like you have with Hellenistic astrology and then be able to write 700 pages on it. And I’ve reviewed all of the reviews on the book, what other people have said—I’ve been looking at it very closely—and it covers a ton of the history, a ton of the mythology, a ton of the philosophy. It’s not just, “Hey, here’s how to do Hellenistic astrology,” which I have a few books like that where it’s just, “Here’s the techniques. Do it.” I want to know more than that. And there’s a good chance that I won’t necessarily want to pursue Hellenistic astrology for the next 10 years, but I won’t know that if I don’t look at Vedic, if I don’t look at Uranian, if I don’t look at all these different systems and then go, “Okay, which one really drew me and captured my interest?” And I saw what you had on your site, and I saw your book, and I thought that’s not someone who just randomly dived into Hellenistic astrology. That’s someone who had to have gone through a few different things before he decided, “This is it. This is my love.”
AR: And I don’t think you can get that from a lot of programs that I’ve seen online. It’s either you choose one or the other. And so, basically I have a year where I can really put myself into it, and I want it to be something where it’s more like a cheese plate instead of a feast. I want to be able to taste everything and go, “Oh, this is the one,” ‘cause then from there you can get the books, the courses and all that. But if you don’t have that base it’s really hard to make that determination with any sort of knowledge.
CB: Right. Definitely. I mean, usually the thing that I recommend to everyone as early in their studies as they can is to get a broad overview, or as broad of an overview as you can of a bunch of different schools of astrology and a bunch of different applications and traditions of astrology because if you get that overview early on, it puts you in a much better position to decide what you want to specialize in once you know what’s actually available out there. Because usually people come into the field with a very specific and sometimes very narrow understanding of what astrology is, and oftentimes a number of preconceptions about what it’s capable of or what’s available. But if you get that overview early enough it can help you to pick a course of study that you might not have otherwise gone towards. I mean, in some instances you might still end up focusing on the initial thing that you wanted to specialize in, and that’s fine, but you’ll at least have an awareness of the other types of astrology.
Because one of the drawbacks that sometimes happens is astrologers, when they get into the field, they have a tendency to specialize in and to get really immersed in their specific approach, and sometimes that can make it harder later in one’s career or later in one’s studies to branch out into other things, or to incorporate other things because they become so engrossed in their specific approach. So that’s one of the other benefits too. It’s a lot easier learning a bunch of different things earlier in your studies and deciding what to incorporate from that than it is to later incorporate something into your already established and somewhat solidified approach to something.
AR: Absolutely. And that’s something that I took away from the last podcast you posted, from the person that you were talking with about locational astrology—you’ll have to forgive me, I don’t remember the name at the moment. He didn’t just do modern locational astrology or traditional locational astrology, he did a little bit of everything, including Vedic. Again, I think that only comes from having a curiosity in general about it so that you can say, “You know, there’s something that I can pull from all these different systems and have a very robust practice that’s highly satisfying.”
I think that most astrologers—we have to have a certain degree of curiosity that’s just inherent in us. And, for me, I need to have many different options to satisfy that curiosity. And it really becomes apparent, everyone that you study—I’ve looked at all of Robert Hand’s stuff, Demetra George; I’ve looked at your stuff—all these people, all these astrologers that are great and have done wonderful works for the community of astrology, they don’t just stick to one thing. They have a very good working knowledge of many different systems. And while they believe that their system is the best one for them to practice, I’ve never seen anyone in this space who’s truly at that level say, “This is the ‘only’ way to do it.”
CB: Sure. Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of a balancing act that you reach at a certain point. There are a lot of advanced astrologers that will have done that work to look at a bunch of different systems and develop some background and take some of the pieces from different systems that they find that are the best or the most useful for them personally or subjectively, but then still specialize in and develop a specific approach that represents what they truly think is the most effective. And actually one of the challenges that’s a little bit new in the past couple of decades and is more pronounced for astrologers today than it probably has been at any other time is there are so many different traditions of astrology that are coming back either from the past or that have just been developed recently in modern times that there’s this great diversity of different techniques and traditions and approaches. And so, the trick is to find a balance between those two. ‘Cause on the one hand you want to be open to a bunch of different systems and approaches, but on the other hand you don’t necessarily want to have a hodge-podge of different things either where everything works and nothing is really clear and there are no real lines or distinctions between anything. So that’s one of the things I think that people are working on and may be struggling with sometimes because there’s no clear guidelines yet for how to deal with some of those things.
And that was something at Kepler that a lot of the students went through because we would rapidly transition from tradition to tradition, and approach to approach, from semester to semester. And sometimes that feeling of not understanding how you could transition from different systems that are so radically different—and yet have each system be this sort of self-contained thing that works on its own terms if you treat it or give it an honest try to understand that approach on its own terms—created this weird thing that I’m not sure that anybody fully articulated properly what that was, but it was this sort of struggle with trying to understand what the nature of reality was if you could have these different, self-independent systems. And people kept coming back to the cliché analogy of ‘astrology as a language’. But in that context it truly did seem appropriate in some sense to liken astrology to a language, so that you could have different systems that had their own internal logic and could make sense if you treated them on their own, with their own grammar and syntax and everything else. But it could be kind of jarring to learn that and to attempt to study 10 different languages at the same time and understand them all on their own terms.
AR: Absolutely. I actually feel like—and it probably started back when you were at Kepler—it’s gotten worse with the internet. You feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose, and there’s about five billion different methods that are put out there in little pieces.
AR: And I feel that a lot of students today, first of all, they don’t understand the value of getting a book or a system already, and then they just kind of look things up piecemeal and sort of hodge-podge it together. And then when you ask them to articulate it, they have a very hard time. I feel that even though I have read many books—I mean, I have an enormous collection of them, totally fascinated by this—I feel the same way without having that kind of formal structured education that kind of forces you to work on just one thing at a time because you can jump around so easily, and I know that I’m prone to that. Even with as much self-discipline as I can apply, I’m prone to that if I don’t have a really strict reason for sticking to one thing at a time. So that’s why I think that the value of having a formal education can come in so that you’re not looking through the internet on your own trying to piece things together, getting confused ‘cause there are six different methods of doing something with their own language, their own syntax, their own reasons for doing it. And very few people explain it because it’s a blog post. What are you gonna do? Explain the entire history and all the symbolism? That would be thousands and thousands of words.
CB: Right, right.
AR: So I guess the question would be, if someone wanted a formal astrology program, how would they choose one that was right for them?
CB: Right. Okay, so this is where we get down to the actual point of this. So the good news and bad news. The bad news is the program that you were describing in one of the first paragraphs in one of our early talks—10 years ago Kepler was the program that had most of that I would have recommended. It would have taken longer than a year. It would have been like a full, four-year program to get everything you’re asking for there in terms of what you were looking for in a degree program. And starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there were some—it’s weird ‘cause you have to understand the history of it to understand what happened and what a unique thing it was, but also why it couldn’t possibly last very long. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was some litigation in the Pacific Northwest where astrologers started getting charged with anti-fortune-telling laws, and this created some issues and some panic in certain areas of the community. And one of the solutions, or one of the problems that they saw, or that some of the astrologers saw—specifically the founder of Kepler that I talked to, Maggie Nalbandian—was that she realized that we didn’t have any kind of internal standards or certification process.
Typically, if an astrology did do something wrong, or if there was any sort of mistake or wrongdoing on the part of the astrologer usually they would be brought up in front of the government, or there was the potential for the government getting involved immediately; whereas in other fields, oftentimes you had sort of an internal process or some sort of process to deal with things internally to see if somebody was committing malpractice and was just ripping people off or was pretending to be an astrologer, but wasn’t actually qualified or certified to do that. But the problem there is that there were no standardized certification methods that taught everybody everything and that taught everybody enough about all of the different traditions, or a board or a panel of people who could honestly and legitimately review a case if something came up to give a qualified opinion and say, “Yes, this person is a practitioner of Indian astrology (or of Uranian astrology) and they are applying the rules as a typical practitioner of that would,” versus, “No, this person is actually just making stuff up. When they told this client to give them $5,000 in order to get rid of a curse or something, that’s not something that a legitimate astrologer would have done.”
So through that sort of indirect route the idea of Kepler came about through the idea of creating a degree program for astrology to deal with this issue of a lack of internal—not necessarily policing—but creating internal standards within the community, so that the community could become more professional and increase the level in that regard. There was then a confluence with some other astrologers who were interested in getting astrology into academia, or at least making astrology more academic. And these were often astrologers that came from academic backgrounds in history or the humanities who saw how other subjects were taught, and often the quality of their own teachings were better or were improved as a result of that because they had a university background, and they knew how other fields were taught to students in the most effective was, and they wanted to bring some of that into the astrological community and wanted to make astrology a respectable field of study that somebody could study in academia.
So there was kind of a confluence of those two things that eventually led to Kepler. And it took a lot of time and money and effort during the course of the 1990s, but eventually through almost a fluke in some sense, they were able to get state certification in the state of Washington to offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees in astrological studies, and they opened up their first class I think in the summer of 2000. So that was a while ago now. The issue with that is that they got state certification partially through a fluke—because I don’t think a lot of people were really paying attention to what was going on. And by the time they got the certification through a series of events, it was sort of too late and the program was already going. But that state certification evidently was not regional certification.
So there’s a higher level of certification that’s regional, and that’s usually what most colleges have to have in order for credits from college to be transferable. So what Kepler ended up creating was a college degree program but the credits weren’t transferable to any other colleges, which ended up making them essentially worthless for people like me. I think there were a few people who may have accidentally been able to transfer some of their credits to some colleges who overlooked things and accepted them in one or two instances. But typically if you applied to another college with a degree from Kepler, it didn’t necessarily mean anything.
AR: Right. Kind of like a trade school.
CB: Yeah. Basically, it was like the equivalent of a trade school, except it was a trade school in an unrecognized discipline that most colleges looked at as not being like a real thing. Ultimately, Kepler—it had the degree program for about 10 years—created a pretty amazing degree program. And part of how it did that was by bringing together a diverse number of astrologers, and all of them had to have a degree. I think the minimum was like a master’s degree, or some of them had to have a PhD in order to teach at Kepler. But then they also ended up being people who specialized in different traditions and different areas, so that they had both that academic background, as well as the background in whatever specific tradition or approach that they were teaching.
Basically, there was a four-year program. The first year was entirely history, the second year you get into techniques, and then it starts focusing on different semesters in which you’re learning either different traditions or different specialties. But the fact that you took the history for an entire year at the very start means you already got a pretty good overview and context of what the history and context of all these different traditions were. Which was really helpful once you started learning the techniques because you already had some understanding of where they came from and what the sequence was in terms of the development of the history of astrology, if that makes sense.
CB: So the problem ultimately is that astrology’s not obviously a recognized discipline and is not a recognized science in any real sense. And so, my personal opinion is I don’t think getting the regional accreditation was ever gonna be possible. There was some discussion that maybe they could sort of piggyback onto another school and by combining their program with another established school somehow get in the door that way. But that was kind of a long shot because it was unlikely that any other school would fully partner with Kepler in order to do that. So that put a sort of time limit on the degree program because with the credits not being transferable you couldn’t get student aid or other things like that, and they had to charge a significant amount in order to make the program run and be functional for students. So that in and of itself really narrowed down the student body in terms of who was able to attend and things like that, if you couldn’t get any sort of financial aid, and if it was also very expensive from semester to semester.
And after 10 years eventually the state of Washington changed the laws specifically for Kepler in order to say that if you didn’t get regional accreditation within ‘X’ amount of years, or were not clearly in the process of doing so in the future, then you would lose your ability to even issue state degrees, and then that’s basically how they lost the state degree program that they had. So I’m giving a lot of backstory because I wanted to explain how there was this really good program at one point. It held together for a few years, but even that was kind of difficult because there were so many different astrologers and so many different approaches that were—I don’t want to say vying for power. But it was an interesting thing seeing—
AR: Oh, yeah, there’s gonna be politics ‘cause they all have their own view, right?
CB: Yeah. And, I mean, that’s part of what happened. That was definitely present there. At the point I was there, I lucked out and everything was really balanced and even. But it was one of those things where it could only sort of hold together like that for so long before there was a shift and a sort of power imbalance took place. But eventually all of that sort of fell apart and they lost their degree program and some of the better teachers left the school. And Kepler survived, and it tried to reconstitute itself as essentially a trade school and no longer a degree program, but it’s not the same program that it was 10 years ago, and most of the people that taught there back then are no longer doing it and the program’s completely different.
So one of the issues I actually have that kind of sucks for me at this point is that I put that on my biography or whatever as part of my credentials, that I was ‘educated’ at Kepler College, because that did definitely mean something in the community 5 or 10 years ago. But at this point I’m running into an issue where I’m sort of referring people to Kepler by doing that and by people seeing what I’m doing, and seeing what my approach is and what I’m about, and how I try to present astrology in a quality way. I feel a little bit bad that I’m not still directing people to that program when it might not be the same program that I went to 10 years ago, if that makes sense.
AR: Absolutely. That’s totally understandable. That’s really too bad. Like I’m internally mourning ‘cause that sounds like something I would have absolutely loved. But I can understand not finding funding and then it not being something you can actually get a degree in in the state and all that. It just sounds like basically a recipe for disaster. It was gonna happen at some point.
CB: Yeah, basically. And it’s nice that it held together as long as it did, and there were a handful of us that got very lucky in being able to do it at that time, being in the right place at the right time. And some of us have tried to carry on that work and present things in the way that we learned through Kepler. And in a large way that’s what my podcast actually represents. The way that I approach astrology and the way that I present all the different traditions and everything else is a direct result of that and is sort of continuing that tradition. But that brings us to today, to 2017, and to the question of what direction a should younger or a newer astrologer go if they’re thinking about educational programs. And for that it comes down to this question partially of what is your goal, and what do you hope to get out of it. Because the fragmentation of the different educational programs—where none of them have everything you’re gonna need in the way that Kepler maybe did 10 years ago—means you’re gonna have to emphasize or pick one thing that’s more important to you. And if you go that route there’s gonna be a neglect of some other things that you might have to do on the side, on your own somehow.
AR: Yeah, I guess the next thing to ask—‘cause I asked another astrologer about this—I had been considering the Faculty of Astrology over in England, the Oxford arm of it. And what I understand is there’s politics there too because while they may have a really good program, they’re not really friendly towards American certifications, and as a result, American certifications just don’t really recognize it. So it’s kind of like if you do it so that eventually you can get the certifications, FAS is not really an option because there’s kind of this ‘bad blood’ between them, is how I understand it. And I could be totally wrong, but that’s how it was sort of explained to me—and that was my next choice. Okay, if I can’t do Kepler, FAS—even if it is a three-year program—I can make time for 15-20 hours a week to do it. And I don’t want to, obviously, make an investment in something where it’s only really useful in the UK, and it’s not useful to the United States or the broader world that recognizes things like AFA certification and all of that.
AR: So what are your thoughts on that?
CB: Before we get there, let’s start with the degree programs. Are there any accredited college degrees—like a bachelor’s or a master’s or a PhD—that you could get in connection with astrological studies? And as far as I’m aware, at the present time, there’s only really two programs that can do that. One of them is Nick Campion’s program, which is the Sophia Centre, which he teaches under the umbrella of the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. And this program refers to astrology sort of euphemistically, which is a common trend with most of the astrology programs that attempt to get into academia. They end up having to refer to astrology indirectly or to almost mask what they’re doing, and so it’s referred to as ‘cultural astronomy’, which is an umbrella term that incorporates a number of different things in addition to astrology. But as far as most astrologers are concerned, who go to the program, they’re going there to some extent for the purpose of getting a degree in something that’s directly related to their astrological studies.
So it’s a great program—I want to say that at the outset. The issue or the thing you should be aware of is that that’s mainly a history program, and so they’re mainly teaching astrology within the context of history and not as practitioners. It’s not something that’s preparing you to go out and do astrological consultations. It’s something that would prepare you to write academic-style papers on the history of astrology in different eras of the astrological tradition, or looking at astrology within the context of culture and things like that. And that’s actually a very valuable skill that most astrologers don’t have. And you can usually see the ones who have it versus the ones who don’t in their writings because they know how to use footnotes, or they know how to cite their sources or build a bibliography or something like that if you’re reading an article that they wrote.
And that’s an important aspect of astrology, especially these days where there’s so many different traditions coming out, and you have to understand how to approach studying a new tradition and how to contextualize it within the context of the broader history of the tradition or the broader culture that it arose in and things like that. But one option that a number of astrologers have moved towards over the past decade or so is that some astrologers have felt that it’s really important for astrologers, in order to legitimize our study, to get academic degrees in order to have credentials; both in order to improve the quality of what we’re doing in general, but also in order to interact with the public, or in order to eventually someday attempt to put astrology on a more solid footing in academia in general. And so, one of the routes is through programs like that where you’re basically dealing with astrology within the context of history or culture, and there are some astrologers that are getting degrees in that in order to have a master’s degree or a PhD behind their name basically.
AR: That’s interesting ‘cause I saw the Sophia Centre, and I wasn’t sure; because of how they have to market it and probably talk about it, I really wasn’t sure. It looked like it did cover quite a bit of the history, but it’s good to have that clarified that it really is mainly just history.
CB: Yeah. And I don’t want to overstate that. I’m not somebody that’s gone through their program, so I can’t speak to all of the specifics. But my understanding and what I’ve seen for the most part from people that have gone through it is it’s primarily dealing with astrology within the context of history and culture. And so, that does not necessarily mean that you won’t end up studying techniques of how astrology was practiced in different eras in that process, but that’s not necessarily the same as doing training for the specific purpose of becoming a consulting astrologer who will see clients. And one of the really important divides—depending on which way you want to go in terms of your educational program—is do you want a degree in order to give yourself some sense of legitimacy within the context of academia or when dealing with the public and have some of those skills that are important to academics—like being able to do research and being able to write an excellent paper or an article or contribute something of value to the academic understanding of astrology or something like that—versus is your primary goal ultimately that you want to be able to work with clients or help people directly in that way, or somehow do something with astrology that’s focused more on demonstrating how it works or actually using it in practice versus the other approach where it’s a little bit broader in terms of what the goal is there.
AR: Right. But it’s definitely valuable. I could see that just if you want to be a practitioner. But the good thing is that there’s a lot of supplemental stuff out there. If you did want to take a program like that, you could take other stuff on your own time that does help you become a practitioner.
CB: Yeah, exactly. And that’s basically what you probably would end up doing. You would end up studying primarily through the program astrology in terms of history and culture, but on the side you would be still studying it practically and looking at charts and expanding things that way. And that’s a perfectly valid approach, and it’s an approach that a number of people have gone through. I mean, one of the things I have seen is there’s been some people that go through that program and come out really good in the history, but then they play a little bit of catch up in terms of some of the more practical or technique-oriented things after that point. And so, on the one hand you could look at it and say, well, that puts them further behind in terms of the practice of astrology. But on the other hand it might put them further ahead in terms of the quality of their work in the long term because they’ve developed some really good skills in terms of being able to do research into different traditions and contextualize astrology and the history and talk about the philosophy of astrology and other things like that.
So that’s one degree program; that’s one of basically two degree programs. The other degree program that I’m aware of is the one that’s taught through the California Institute of Integral Studies in California, basically in San Francisco, and that’s basically Richard Tarnas’ program. Again, this is another program where it’s a quasi-astrology program where you’re studying astrology in the context of history and culture primarily, but it’s within the broader context of a larger actual university that they’re a part of or that they’ve piggybacked onto in some way to create this program under the umbrella of. And that—that’s a little bit different. I mean, it’s very similar in terms of studying astrology in terms of history and culture, and then on the side astrology sometimes being incorporated into that, or them at least being open to that if that’s a direction that you want to go. And I’ve had a few friends that have gone to that program in order to pursue some of their studies.
So one person I know, one of my friends from Kepler, actually went on to go to CIIS, and she’s working on a PhD right now, so that she’ll eventually have a legitimate degree; the highest degree that you can get from that program. But there—part of it is also that you’re studying it within the context of that specific school and the type of astrology from the main person who founded it, Richard Tarnas. So if you read Cosmos and Psyche that was his best attempt to present astrology to the public and to academia and say this is a legitimate field of study; there’s something going on here and other people should pay attention to it; other non-astrologers should pay attention to it for these reasons. And that book has become sort of the centerpiece that I feel like a lot of the astrologers that come out of the CIIS program often follow; that general approach or the foundation that he laid in that book. So you understand that there’s a specific approach that people are taking within the context of that program or that school that’s sort of relevant to know when you go into.
AR: Yeah, I’ve actually looked at that book, and I have not yet purchased it, mostly because I have a whole other mountain of books to go through.
CB: Sure. I mean, two things that are useful in comparing those two programs is oftentimes the students or people in connection with those programs will produce a journal, or will at least be involved in producing a journal. And so, for Nick Campion’s program in the UK, he does the Culture and Cosmos journal. And it’s not that all of the people that have gone through his program have contributed articles—‘cause often it’s other academics contributing articles to it—but sometimes you can find articles in there by people that have gone through Nick Campion’s program. Like I think Liz Greene contributed an article, and she is working on or recently got her PhD. Even though she had been a practitioner and had been writing books on astrology for decades, she was part of that group over the past decade or two of astrologers who later in their careers felt like it was important to get degrees in order to be able to write academic papers and move in those fields.
And so, that includes people like Liz Greene, like Nick Campion. Demetra George got her master’s degree in the late ‘90s or early 2000s. Rob Hand just got his PhD a few years ago. He did his master’s like years ago in the ‘60s or ‘70s, but then decided over the course of the past decade to finally go back and get his PhD. Anyway, you can read Culture and Cosmos, and I think there’s also another student journal that some of the people from the UK program put out, and I think it’s called Spica. I could be wrong on that, but that has a bunch of student papers from people that are going through the Sophia Centre program. And so, you can look at the type of work that they’re doing and get a general sense of what the focus is of some of these people and what sort of research projects they’re doing within the context of that school.
And then for the California school, the CIIS, you can look at the Archai journal, which is a journal that’s been going off and on for a few years I think since the late 2000s, but it’s recently been revived just last year and that often has contributions from people who have gone through the CIIS program. And so, you can kind of see and compare the papers that they’ve done and the type of academic scholarship that’s coming out of some of the students within the context of that school in order to just compare and contrast and get a sense of those are probably the types of papers that you would end up writing if you went to a school like that, or those types of research papers.
AR: Excellent. Thank you so much for pointing me in that direction.
CB: Yeah. So in terms of academic degrees, those are two options. Those are really the only two options that I’m aware of that are college-level courses where you could get a degree and specialize in something closely related to astrology—largely in the context of history or culture, or the humanities in general; maybe philosophy—and where you would have a tutor or an instructor who is somebody that’s well-versed in astrology and has a background in it and could help guide you or figure out a path of study for you to do within that context, or the context of whatever their approach is to teaching that subject. So those are the only two degree programs that I’m aware of that really still exist. There is one other option if you want to go the academic route, which is to actually go to a legitimate college of some sort and go through a four-year bachelor’s program and then get into a master’s program.
Typically, once you get into a master’s program—and especially a PhD program—you can start specializing in some specific area. And there have been people who do that and end up specializing in something related to astrology. So it’s not, in a practitioner sense, they’re trying to demonstrate that astrology works or something like that, but there have been different people that have gotten PhD’s who have worked in fields where it ended up basically being connected with astrology. One of the really common ones is if you get a degree in classics. So there’s a number of classicists who have studied and specialized in astrology within the context of the study of ancient histories and ancient cultures. And one of the ways that you can do that, for example, is through philology and the study of ancient texts and manuscripts. Like there was this one academic in the late ‘90s and he got together all the manuscripts of a lost Hellenistic author named Manetho and he edited them altogether to try to reconstruct what the original version of the text was; and then that reconstruction, which is called a critical edition, was basically his PhD dissertation.
And actually a perfectly legitimate and relatively common way to get a PhD dissertation in classics is to do a critical edition like that, or find the work of some lost author, learn all of the ancient languages and the skills necessary to reconstruct that text and then actually do it. And the purpose is not necessarily to say that you think that the techniques work, or you’re trying to demonstrate that this is practically valuable in modern times. But it’s just that within the context of studying ancient history, doing any sort of work in order to reconstruct what happened in ancient history, even if it’s in an occult field or something like that, is slowly being seen as more legitimate in that context. So that’s one other option. So that’s a very specific route where you’d have to go the route of classics. But there could be other related routes in the field of philosophy or culture or history or different things like that where you could go through a standard academic degree program at a major university and probably still be able to work with your advisor—as long as you have an advisor who’s open enough to create a program that would allow you to do work on astrology in some sense, especially the history of astrology, and still get a legitimate degree as a result of that.
AR: Yeah. Let me ask—is this something that you would be interested in? Are you more interested in just practicing this? ‘Cause you’ve written this enormous book on Hellenistic astrology, so obviously have a lot of education on that sort of stuff. That’s your interest, that’s very clear, I know that it’s focused specifically on Hellenistic astrology. But do you feel the need to get a so-called ‘real’ degree from a university or something like that? Is that something you’re really drawn to? ‘Cause it seems like a lot of astrologers at a certain point felt that need.
CB: Yeah. And I sort of go back and forth, or at least I have gone back and forth historically in my own path at one point, I think around 2009 or 2010. ‘Cause my sequence was—well, my sequence is actually kind of funny and kind of dumb in some sense. I initially was in high school, did not have any aspirations for a higher education, discovered astrology at the age of 15 or something like that, and then just immediately had the sense of this is really fascinating and really amazing and this is what I want to do with my life; this is what I want to study and specialize in. But then very quickly I realized that it was not seen as a legitimate study and that it was not something that I could pursue in college, and I felt like I was wasting time then with what I was doing in trying to finish up high school. So I initially dropped out of high school because I was just reading astrology books all the time, and I wanted to focus my studies on that.
And so, not long after that, over the course of the next year, I found out that Kepler existed and had recently opened up only two or three years prior to that, at that point, and I could actually get a college degree in astrological studies. So I went back to high school, finished high school, went immediately from high school into Kepler, studied there for two years. But in my second year, I got that introduction to Hellenistic and Indian astrology, became absolutely fascinated with Hellenistic astrology, but also realized at that point—this is around 2005-2006—that Kepler’s degree wasn’t gonna mean anything. It wasn’t accredited regionally and the credits weren’t transferable, and that nobody, if I said that I had like a BA or a master’s degree from Kepler college, would really look at that and think that meant anything because it was an unaccredited degree, from a university that nobody that nobody was aware of.
So I left Kepler and went and studied at a translation project for two years to focus on studying Hellenistic astrology and ancient astrological texts. Eventually, after two years, I left there in 2007, and in 2009, I actually did look into getting into a classics program at the University of Colorado in Boulder. One of the things about most of the astrological programs where they’re trying to teach astrology or give you an astrological education is that they don’t actually give you some of the proper skills that you might actually learn in a university context. And one of those skills, especially that’s important in classics, is training in ancient languages. Like taking classes on learning Ancient Greek or learning Latin and learning things like paleography or philology and learning how to read a handwritten manuscript from the 10th century and decipher that person’s handwriting skills and things like that.
So I tried to actually get into a degree program in 2009, but they didn’t recognize any of my credits from Kepler. So I would have had to start over in a bachelor’s program as an undergraduate and go through from start to finish a whole new four-year program before I’d even get to start working on an MA and start specializing in what I was already doing at that point, which was writing a book on Hellenistic astrology, which was essentially like working on my dissertation at that point, and I didn’t want to go back and start over from the beginning. So I say that because I did make an attempt and almost went that route at one point because I realized that I needed to go to an actual—I didn’t need to. I would have gotten better training if I’d gone to an actual university in terms of learning some of those language skills. My degree would have actually been recognized amongst other academics if I went to a traditional university versus one of these other universities where they’re giving degrees in astrological studies in connection with history or culture, but it’s not necessarily something that shows that you’ve had training in ancient languages or something like that in the same way that a traditional classics program would.
So I did attempt to go that route, it didn’t work out. And instead of starting all over again, I realized that I already had most of the skills I needed in order to teach myself, to the best of my abilities, what I could. And I knew what I needed to focus on studying in order to finish my education, so I went about doing that myself. And I think ultimately either route is perfectly legitimate, you just have to be aware of what the pros and cons are and what the drawbacks are to whichever way you decide to go in terms of that.
AR: Do you think that it’s necessary for a person who is learning astrology or wants to become a practicing astrologer to get a degree? I know that there’s an advantage for sure, but is it necessary?
CB: So I’ve gone back and forth on this over the years. My current feeling and my feeling over the past few years now is, no, I don’t think it’s necessary. I do think astrologers that have a degree typically have an advantage, and their work typically—not always—is a little bit more well-formulated and clear and oftentimes better in terms of the way that it presents their research and their findings, but I don’t think it’s necessary. And I actually think the thing that happened during the course of the late ‘90s and 2000s where there was a rush for a number of older astrologers who were already well-established and very successful in their fields to go back and get academic degrees—I’m not sure, there were different motivations for that—was in order to somehow improve the profession or the standing of astrology in academia and start interacting with academics. I think that did not go as well as many of them thought it would, or at least the effects of it.
From my perspective, I feel like there were a number of leading astrologers who would have done a lot of important practical work over the course of the past decade who didn’t because they ended up—I don’t want to say wasting—but they ended up spending a lot of time and money focusing on just getting a piece of paper. And I’m not sure that piece of paper ultimately was as useful as the work that they would have done within the field of astrology if they had done some of the same work, but also a bunch of other work that they naturally would have done if they weren’t trying to jump through hoops just to get a degree in order to make themselves look better to people outside of the astrological community. So I’m a little bit cynical about it. And there’s some people—I hesitate to go fully into that as much as I would; maybe in private conversation in case we do release this. But that’s kind of where I stand at this point where, no, I don’t think it’s necessary for somebody to get an academic degree in order to do good work in the field of astrology.
And I think that in some ways I like and I appreciate some of the ways in which some astrologers who have gotten degrees over the past decade have done really good work and done good research and put out really interesting research in the field of astrology or in things related to astrology in academia over the past decade, I think there were some drawbacks to that nobody anticipated. Some people kind of did it and the results weren’t necessarily as useful either for themselves or for the community, as some of us thought perhaps going into it.
AR: Right. A little disappointing maybe ‘cause it wasn’t received as seriously as they thought it would be maybe from outsiders. That would be my take on it. A lot of people, even if you put in all of that hard work looking up the information and translating texts, and even doing scientific or statistical research on things, they still are just gonna look at it cynically and say, “Astrology’s a joke.” It’s a gift and curse that we love an ancient science, and after Hellenistic times, maybe a little later, it’s never been seen the same.
CB: Right. And, unfortunately, part of that is because if you start going outside of the astrological community and focusing on academia, you’re not necessarily focusing internally on the community. And to some extent the internal astrological community—at least in terms of structure—kind of is still a joke in the sense that it’s not very well-structured. There’s not any sort of standards or community-wide certification. Things are kind of all over the place in terms of quality where sometimes you can find pockets of really quality stuff being done, but then there’s a lot of not-great stuff in between. And, yeah, I guess that’s just one of my issues. And one of the issues I’ve noticed in the people that went the academic route is that—and even I felt this myself and was sometimes tempted to go in that direction.
Sometimes one of the things you find if you start studying astrology in an academic context or a historical context is just studying it purely for the sake of an interesting thing to study the history of, or that it’s an intersecting thing to look at from a cultural perspective in and of itself without making any sort of value judgments about whether it’s true or not, or whether it’s actually a legitimate phenomenon; it’s actually really easy. You could spend your entire life just writing about the history of astrology or writing about astrology and culture because that’s actually just a really interesting topic or field in and of itself, especially if you really get into it. And sometimes there are practitioners of astrology who will be drawn into doing that, and they can sometimes forget what it’s like to actually practice the subject, or to some extent sort of neglect that as a thing unto itself. Which from a community standpoint, on the one hand, means it’s nice that they’re gonna do really good quality work on the history of astrology, but it might mean that we’ve lost an important thinker who could have helped with some important philosophical or practical matters related to the actual practice of astrology in modern times and try to create a more stable and solid foundation for that in the 21st century. I’m not fully sure how to explain that. I hope that makes a little bit of sense.
AR: Yeah, I do understand that. Just because it was culturally-relevant doesn’t mean that now it’s relevant, or now it’s practical, or that it was more than just a phenomenon for the time or what they thought based on their cultural biases. And I can totally see how you could go down that rabbit hole. I think, again, most people who are really truly interested at this level in astrology—it’s so easy to just go down a rabbit hole and lose yourself in something that you really love.
AR: And that’s the risk it runs.
CB: That, and also forgetting. ‘Cause one of the things that happens—I know at least one astrologer who started focusing on the history of astrology years and years ago and he stopped doing consultations. He stopped doing consultations and reading charts years and years ago, combined with studying astrology purely in a historical context where you’re constantly comparing many different traditions and approaches that are sometimes conflicting or don’t agree with each other or say the exact opposite thing or something like that; eventually you can get into the complete mind-space of maybe none of this even works at all. Because if you completely forget and stop using it altogether and never really bring yourself to even look at chart to see if it’s actually working, but instead entirely focus on contrasting different traditions or studying the history that becomes a thing onto itself, and you can kind of lose interest in even practicing the subject or even believing that it’s a legitimate phenomenon.
AR: Absolutely. So let’s say we don’t want a formal degree, but we’re wanting a pretty decent practical education that does cover some of these topics—maybe not all of them. Is there anything out there, outside of basically these two or three routes of academia that someone could use? As I mentioned earlier, there’s the Faculty of Astrology over in the UK and then of course Kepler still does cover some of the practical steps. I guess my goal is—because I’ve gotta hodgepodge it together—to come to at least one system to work through. I think that can only come through some disciplined focus that a classroom setting can give to you. So if there’s something out there at all, or a couple of options out there, that would be worth considering.
CB: Right. So this is when we get to the next tier downwards. The academic institutions and the academic route—whether you go into one of those two programs, or whether you’re going for a traditional degree—those are the top tier in terms of time and commitment and expensiveness and everything else. The next tier down is gonna be—or I guess you could say over. Maybe I shouldn’t put it in a hierarchy like that. But just in terms of options, side-by-side, you have the academic route. The next one or the next group we would talk about would be schools of astrology, which are a group or a program that’s taught by more than one person, so taught by let’s say a few people. You have a few different teachers that are trying to create a program that’s relatively well-rounded and is supposed to teach and offer classes on most of the major things that you need to learn, or at least that that program thinks you need to learn in order to become an astrologer; and typically these have some sort of internal certification process on their own.
I’m separating that and putting in a category—schools of astrology as a category that’s separate from other certification programs through an astrological organization, which is sort of like a separate thing. The schools are typically businesses that are specifically geared towards teaching astrologers astrology, typically teaching astrologers how to do or how to practice astrology. So when we get into this group there’s typically much less focus and much less refinement in terms of the history of astrology. These programs don’t typically have a lot on the history of astrology for the most part because they’re geared towards practitioners, and most people when they learn astrology, they want to know how to read charts. So within the astrological community, when you take it outside of an academic context, it’s all about reading charts. And there are a number of schools like this that do exist. A lot of it has shifted towards online learning over the course of the past decade or so.
And some of the programs I can think of off the top of my head—and some of them are bigger or larger. So it gets a little bit tricky here because sometimes you have what I would call the larger online programs or larger schools that have a larger faculty—although I use that word somewhat loosely because it’s not always like a college program where you have an established faculty. Sometimes it’s like a rotating thing from year to year depending on what they’re offering. There’s also smaller schools which can sometimes be regional, like there can be ones that teach local classes within a specific city. So, for that, there’s like the London School of Astrology, which is a specific school that’s taught by Frank Clifford, or at least he’s the primary organizer of the school if I understand correctly; and I apologize to Frank if I’m misstating that. There’s other regional schools I know of, like the Portland School of Astrology where it’s like two or three principal organizers of that and then they have other teachers in connection with it as well.
So that would be a sort of local route. Then there’s the online route where you have schools like Kepler College, the Online College of Astrology; I think they might be calling it the International—let me check that really quick. Have you come across that school yet? The Online College of Astrology?
AR: Yes, I think it was like astrologycollege.com or something or ‘.org’.
CB: Yeah, ‘.org’. So they’re calling it the International Academy of Astrology at this point. And that seems to be, as far as I’m aware, one of the other larger online programs that exists at this point that’s kind of similar to Kepler College. They have core programs for their core degree programs and then they have a bunch of electives and other things that you can take online as well. So either you can go through their full program, which ends up being like a two-year program with some of these schools. I think Kepler’s core program at this point is two years, or you can take some elective courses with them that you can pick out piecemeal or what have you. So there’s schools like that: Online College of Astrology, Kepler College. I mean, I’m not fully familiar with their program, but I thought that the faculty program is sort of like that as well where there’s some distance learning component, but then there’s also the summer school where sometimes people will fly out for like a week in order to do some in-person lecturing and training and things like that, right?
AR: Yeah, they offer you a couple different options. They do a lot of in-person stuff not just during the summer, but it seems like it’s primarily online from what I understand looking at their program.
CB: Okay. So with online schools, the nicest thing about that is that’s probably up there in terms of the closest thing you can get to the idea that I had 10 years ago with Kepler in terms of hopefully getting exposed to a few different approaches to astrology, hopefully getting some of that history and some of that philosophy thrown in, especially if they have good instructors, if the school is using good quality instructors who are ideally leaders or one of the leading astrologers in the specific tradition or the specific type of astrology that they’re teaching in that particular course. And sometimes that really varies. Some of the online programs will bring in a really good astrologer like—let’s say you’re learning horary astrology—somebody that’s really well-known for horary astrology or somebody who’s written a book on the topic, whereas other programs might not. They might have somebody that hasn’t written a book on the topic or isn’t particularly well-known on the topic of horary astrology. And so, it can really vary from program to program depending on who they’re bringing in and whether they’re bringing in instructors from the outside for these programs, or whether it’s just a small group of a few people that are kind of teaching everything or doing everything.
AR: Yeah, it seems like when I’ve looked at Kepler or FAS—‘cause those were the two that I’ve really been looking at—they seemed to keep pretty steady faculty, loosely using the term. It doesn’t seem to vary that much because I’ve been looking at this for a couple months now. And I think that’s a benefit at least, just to have people that are steady. But it does seem like out of all of them—and this isn’t of course because I want to endorse anything, so don’t think that for a second, please. It seems like when I looked at all of them FAS seemed to come as close as possible to actually giving more when it comes to the history and all this other stuff. Now on the math side of it, it seemed like Kepler had more stringent qualifications for getting in. So if you couldn’t pass the math section before you actually took a class, you would have to take some remedial astrology-related math classes to get up to speed, but that was really the main difference between them.
And of course the last thing that I saw in the difference between them was—and this is only from digging. This is not something that is claimed on any website, and I don’t want anyone to think that a school said this, but from what I understand certain schools are seen more favorably by different certification organizations than others, and it comes down to politics. And while I don’t feel the need to get certified at this time while I’m trying to get through just having a really good formal structure to help me to do charts faster, more efficiently, more confidently, in the future I may. And I would hate to go to the wrong school and cut myself off from that.
CB: Yeah. I mean, I’m not sure how much that’s relevant from the outside. Some of the larger schools like Kepler or the Faculty—when you get a degree from one of those larger, more recognized schools that in the astrological community at least are viewed as being one of the mainstays—not mainstays—but one of the larger organizations that is run by a group of people that’s doing quality work, then sometimes when you get a degree from one of those programs it will entitle you to certification from one of the astrological organizations. I ended up with an AA from Kepler because I left before completing my bachelor’s there. And when they were graduating the last class, they said that I had enough credits if I wanted to collect my AA, my associate’s degree, even though I had left years earlier. So I just did and technically graduated with the last class in 2012, even though technically I had stopped going there back in 2007.
So getting that associate’s degree from Kepler automatically meant that I technically have NCGR certification level three or something like that because Kepler had worked out a deal with the NCGR. Because they taught chart calculation and because they taught ‘this, that, and the other’ specific thing, it was also on the NCGR certification that those should be equivalent. And so, if you got one degree from Kepler then it meant that you could also say that you were NCGR-certified if you ran that by them and got their approval. So I think that’s part of what you’re talking about probably.
CB: There’s some probably equivalent when it comes to the Faculty doing the same thing with some other degree programs. And ISAR I think does that with some schools, and there’s probably other ones like that. ‘Cause one of the problems that we’ve run into over the past couple of decades is there’s at least a half-dozen—if not more, if not a dozen—major astrological organizations around the world at this point, and a lot of them developed their own certification programs over the past few decades. And so, these end up being competing certification programs, which then compete with each of the other organizations, but then they also compete with some of the different schools that offer their own degree programs, which is a type of certification. So there have been some efforts to at least cross-promote or connect it so that if you get a degree from one program then it entitles you to the other. But I’m not even sure how much that matters at this point or how extensive that is in any sort of meaningful sense. I mean, to understand that or to answer that question, we’d have to get to the next question about the next tier, which is getting certification from the astrological organizations and whether that matters and to what extent that matters within the context of the astrological community.
AR: Right. And that was the next question, and I did ask another astrologer about that. And the advantage that was given to me—at least explained to me—was that when you get certified from NCGR, ISAR, AFA what comes with it is a really large network of other fellow members. And you find other astrologers later in your practice who want to learn from you because there’s a greater possibility of you creating a program that will give them NCGR or ISAR credits, so to speak, or certifications at different levels.
So that’s not really my concern at this point, but it would be nice to know that whatever education you put yourself in that you’ll be able to get also the speaking opportunities that tend to crop up because you’ve got these sort of certifications and you’re accepted into the community. So it starts to play more, from what I understand, with politics than it does with actual practice or getting more charting clients, so to speak. It’s more like if people wanted to learn from you, and if you wanted to speak on stage or go to events that are already kind of booked out, things like that, there’s advantages to having certifications with certain organizations. And I guess that was really my primary concern—that if I take something, like with the Faculty, that’s it’s going to disclude me from that because there’s internal politics that I don’t even fully understand. So I don’t want to make a blind decision, and I hope that nobody else does either, and hopefully this is all resolved and this is all just gossip. I hope that it’s just gossip.
CB: Sure. I mean, yes and no, it’s a little mixed. It’s partially true, it’s partially not true. So the astrological organizations—there’s half-a-dozen probably big ones in terms of the English-speaking world. There’s three or four big ones in the US and then there’s a bunch of smaller ones—or mid-level ones and then smaller ones. The hierarchy is the big ones are—and there’s a little bit of nebulousness here—the National Council for Geocosmic Research, which is the NCGR, which has been around for something like three or four decades; there’s the International Society for Astrological Research, which has been around for three or four decades; there’s AFAN, which is the Association for Astrological Networking; and then finally there’s AFA, which is the American Federation of Astrologers, which has been around since the 1940s.
So the AFA—because it’s the oldest in the US—used to be the one that was around forever and everything was done under that umbrella. But then there was a generation of astrologers—I think it was the Pluto in Leo—that came in in the 1960s and ‘70s who got in conflict with the AFA and then broke off and started their own astrological organizations, which are what essentially the NCGR and ISAR and AFAN were. And then those became the big astrological organizations for the next few decades, and the AFA sort of shrunk to some extent in size, or at least became less prominent in the community than it used to be.
So each of those—with the exception of AFAN—NCGR, ISAR, and AFA have their own certification processes where you can get some letters behind your name that say that you’re certified as an astrologer who has this level of training. So I’m just explaining this for the sake of anyone who’s listening to this; I know you understand that. But you can get different levels of certification that certify you as an astrologer on the behalf of one of these organizations. And, typically, those are not usually transferable as far as I know between the astrological organizations. So, instead, they end up competing and that in and of itself partially reflects the organizations themselves, which are kind of competing and often have overlapping purposes or goals. On one level, one of the annoying things about the astrological community at this point is that we have a bunch of different organizations, but oftentimes they’re kind of doing similar things or repeating similar things. And I often wonder if that doesn’t create more problems than it actually helps in terms of creating—not diversity in the community—but creating just overlap and redundancy in some sense.
Anyway, those are the astrological organizations and then each country has their own version of that. Although, typically, most other countries just have one major astrological organization and then a bunch of other local ones. So the major parent astrological organization, if I understand correctly, in the UK, for example, is the Astrological Association. And then there’s a bunch of regional or sometimes local city organizations that often act as either subsets or independent things that sometimes get together to put on larger conferences, like the Astrological Association conference each year. Then in Australia, the main organization is the Federation of Australian Astrologers, or Federation for Australian Astrologers, and they have a bunch of regional presidents and regional subsets as well in addition to the national organization. And then of course it’s the same in the US where the NCGR has their national organization and then that acts as an umbrella organization for a bunch of local astrology groups where they have chapters usually set up in a bunch of major cities: New York has a local NCGR chapter, Denver has a local NCGR chapter, and so on and so forth. So the point of all of that is we’re still basically talking about the transferability or the relevance of those degrees.
AR: I know that they each have their own way of certifying you, their own process. Here’s my personal philosophy on it.
CB: If that’s relevant in terms of your career as an astrologer, in terms of the politics of having those certifications?
AR: Right. So my philosophy is if I have a decent enough education in astrology then I should be able to take almost any certification—barring that there may be one or two refining details about them—and be able to pass it without having to go through all of their classes. And I guess that’s a question; it’s just not clear. Is that something that can be done? I think it was NCGR, you can just take the different qualifying tests essentially and get your different levels, but it’s just not that clear. It’s not clear cut; no one’s really explaining it. And my big question is if I wanted to have any of this at all, am I gonna have to take classes every single time I want to have a certification? Or if I take classes now, will that education serve me to be able to take a qualifying test in, say, NCGR or ISAR, and get the certification?
CB: Yeah, the answer is yes and no. I mean, the issue that I run into talking about this level or this area of certification from the organizations—which is different from diplomas or certification from the schools—is that from what I’ve seen, and this is just my somewhat limited and subjective opinion, the certification programs offered by the organizations don’t seem to be very good to me. The quality of those programs for what you have to do or learn in order to get their certification, from what I’ve seen, is not typically very good. And part of the reason for that is that those are organizations that are often set up and often focused on doing a number of different things, but one of the most important functions that still exists in the astrological community is oftentimes they organize conferences and do social events like that. Or they’ll publish a journal; some of them still publish journals. Or they’ll have a newsletter and an email list and stuff like that.
And then one of the things that they also do is offer certification because that’s something that’s sort of expected that they should do. There was a push for that a few decades ago to have certification, but it’s being done oftentimes by volunteers who aren’t getting paid. And it’s not really within the context of an actual school like you have with some of the others where their main goal is to teach astrology and to give out diplomas eventually once you’ve done a sufficient number of classes. They’re just offering some base level of certification oftentimes in these things. So from what I’ve seen, I don’t think most of the certification programs that are offered by the organizations are terribly good. There’s some people that would not like me saying that, or some people in the organizations or part of those programs that might object to that and might push back and that’s fine. I’m just saying in the context of looking at these different things, if I was to put it in a hierarchy, it would be like the university ones, then the schools within the astrological community, and then somewhere below that would be the certifications offered by the organizations.
So the one things that was actually probably true on some level that you said was that those certifications could be somewhat useful occasionally politically if you’re trying to build up your career as an astrologer and eventually speak at conferences and stuff, and that actually might be one of the limited reasons why maybe you could make an argument for the certification being useful. It’s true that oftentimes getting a speaking position at some of these conferences organized by the astrological community, or organized in the astrological community—because those conferences are often organized by the astrological organizations that means you often need to have some sort of connection with that organization that’s hosting the conference, or with some of the people who are connected with it in order to get a speaking position or be invited to give a talk basically.
So that’s partially true; that’s where the politics come in. That could be useful, but it’s definitely not guaranteed. And sometimes some of those things just happen very randomly by actually having connections with those people. One friend of mine—I don’t know if I can say his name—but he always tells this funny story about how 10 years ago he was at an astrology conference on the dance floor, and he was dancing, and then he danced with this other person. They met, and then they talked afterwards and hit it off. And then he was invited to give a talk at this astrology conference that was being organized by this person, and then over subsequent years, became one of the main speakers that they keep bringing back to this conference, and who now has developed quite a following speaking at this conference every year.
And that’s just this sort of fluke or happenstance sort of thing about how sometimes these connections are made, and how people sometimes end up speaking at these conferences. It often just has to do with making a personal connection somehow with the people that are organizing it. Certainly that puts your foot in the door if you’re taking a certification program; it means that somebody in that organization might be aware of you. And maybe that looks good on a resume, but it’s definitely not necessarily a guaranteed thing.
AR: So it sounds just like the normal speaker industry ‘cause I used to work in it. And basically, yeah, it’s a game of who you know. That makes a lot of sense. That makes a lot of sense. I think the most confusing factor out of this is I want to choose something that I will fall in love with as far as a program goes, but I want it also to set me up to have as many advantages as possible in the long run. ‘Cause if you’re gonna spend $6,000 on something like Kepler or the Faculty then you want to make sure that you’re making the best investment possible.
CB: Yeah. I mean, ideally, there’s another route for conferences, which is just you become a famous astrologer, and you write like ‘the’ book of your generation that everybody reads and knows about. As far as I can tell Rob Hand is who he is largely because he wrote Planets in Transit, and that became the book that every astrologer had to have in their library.
AR: No pressure. No pressure at all.
CB: Yeah, yeah, yeah, just a minor feat like that. Write a generation-defining book and then you may or may not get invited to conferences after that. One of the other funny things is that still actually doesn’t guarantee it, but it could actually help out in terms of that’s one route you can go. Just doing really good work and becoming well-known, you may or may not get invited to speak. I feel like the most common, especially with the organizations, is you often end up getting speaking positions if you’ve volunteered, and if you’ve worked for or done something for the astrological organization in the past, especially if you’re a current or former member of the board of one of those astrological organizations. It’s kind of like a positive thing and a negative thing because I can see both sides of it.
On the one hand, you could say that’s cronyism and that’s not necessarily gonna result in the best lectures being presented at these conferences if whoever happens to be on the board at the time is being awarded with speaking positions. But on the other hand, I’ve heard it defended, and I have some sympathy for this response which is that these astrological organizations are typically non-profit organizations that have very extremely limited budgets that they’re already pretty much blowing on the conference itself, just organizing it and some of the logistics involved in that. And then typically they have a ton of unpaid volunteers who are doing two and three years of volunteer work in the lead up to these conferences. And so, the only thing that they can sometimes offer these people in gratitude for that is that they can give a 75-minute lecture at this conference that they’re helping to organize to present some of their own research or their own work, and that becomes the trade-off.
So that is the route that some people take. They get involved in helping the astrological organizations, and then sometimes through that they can get speaking positions. And then sometimes if they’re good at it, other organizers or other people can take note of that or notice that that person’s a good speaker and invite them to other conferences and other talks just based on the merits of having seen them talk somewhere else, and then they can build up a profile like that. On some level that’s almost the route that I ended up going—sort of, not really, but to some extent. And so, that is a legitimate way to build up that as well and it doesn’t necessarily require certification; although that might help a little bit perhaps, let’s say.
AR: Absolutely. So that brings me to my last question—or one of the last questions. I won’t guarantee that ‘cause I ask way too many questions. But my semi-last question is, could you get something similar like this from a mentor—someone that you work with closely for a few years that kind of guides you on your path?
CB: Right. So this is the final area at this point in terms of astrological education, aside from self-study, which is kind of taken for granted or guaranteed at some point that everybody’s doing some level of self-study. But this is the final area, and this is where I think things are moving more and more to some extent because of the advent of the internet. The conferences actually used to be much more important; they’re still actually very important for social reasons, and to some extent for educational reasons. But it used to be that if you wanted to connect with a famous astrologer, you’re not gonna have Rob Hand living down the street from you, so that you can just go and take a class with him anytime you want.
It used to be that if you wanted to ever meet or study with some of these people, you’d have to go to one of these conferences, and you’d have to get a lecture from them directly, or go to a weekend workshop or something like that, and that’s still valuable in terms of attending conferences today. But now, more and more, astrologers are teaching and doing instruction directly either online or through different types of correspondence courses or mentorship programs or things like that. So you have the ability now to study with specific astrologers who will teach their own particular approach to astrology, or will teach some sort of program, or sometimes do mentorship in order to help guide the student, depending on where they’re at in their studies after doing some sort of assessment of something like that, and then working out some sort of study program for that person, so that’s the last area here.
And I’m not sure if this is still the case, but I’ve been feeling for a while that, honestly, that’s probably the best route to go at this point, which is to find somebody who’s really good, who’s work that you really resonate with—assuming that you’ve already done some of the groundwork and you’ve studied a few different approaches and a few different traditions to at least get an overview of what’s out there and get a general sense of what you’re interested in and you’d like to focus on and specialize in—and then find a teacher who specializes in that approach to astrology or that type of astrology that you really want to learn and specialize in and then study with them directly. Typically, if they offer a direct program themselves, between you and them, that can be the best. Other times, they can teach a program within the context of a smaller program or a smaller school, and you can study with them within that context. But more and more it seems like direct study is becoming something that a lot of astrologers do and offer in different ways.
AR: Yes. And I think a less hands-on example is actually the Hellenistic astrology course that you offer because it gives your full method for doing Hellenistic astrology. I’ve looked at it extensively because it’s an area that I’m interested in. But then you also have your book as a supplement, and it’s probably as close as you can get to a sense of academic study by yourself, using someone’s materials that you really respect, who may not have the time to or the ability to be a mentor directly at that time. But that’s what really great people in history have done is they’ve studied someone that they just absolutely adore over time through their books. And nowadays it would be through their YouTube videos—their podcasts, things like that—to really get a sense of what they do and try to practice it themselves.
I think the thing about mentorship that appeals to me is it’s actual feedback. And I guess that’s what I’m looking for myself, but some other people may find that going through a class or a prerecorded something is just what they need ‘cause it does give the structure. It gives the structure, it gives the method. And, again, this is where you said ‘knowing the goal’ is really important because I can learn personally all kinds of methods rather quickly, but I don’t have the confidence. Even though I have clients that have loved what I’ve done over the years, I’ve never had a complaint. It’s never been, “Oh, you’re being obscure, this doesn’t make sense,” ever.
I just don’t feel fully confident because I want a better base underneath me, and I want to feel like there’s been a better process in my learning with some feedback from someone that I think knows what they’re talking about. ‘Cause a lot of times our clients—they come to us and they don’t know. They don’t know one thing about it. Maybe they know a little bit, but not enough to actually say, “Hey, this is probably not the best way to explain this,” or “This method could have been done more smoothly.” And I think that’s what a mentor kind of would offer. But, again, it’s really difficult to find someone who can give you direct feedback or create that kind of thing. I know that Demetra George actually has a mentorship program, but she’s got a waitlist. So that’s something where you get on the waitlist and you hope that in the next couple months you can start with her.
CB: Right. Yeah, Demetra has a mentorship program where she does that kind of individual assessment, figuring out what the person needs or where they need to go, and then whether she can offer that or if she can direct them to other resources or other things that might be useful in terms of that. I know there’s other astrologers who try to develop different ways of dealing with that and giving direct feedback. I recently saw that Kelly Surtees, for example, was doing a sort of group mentorship program. She would like to, but she can’t necessarily work with each individual person and schedule them all without ending up with a huge waiting list like Demetra. It seems like she’s trying to deal with that by having a group webinar discussion for two hours where different people ask different questions, and they sort of work through a sort of group mentorship program.
So there’s different options like that that people are experimenting with. And there are a number of other people that will do mentorship or will do direct programs, and it’s just a matter of checking out their websites and seeing if they offer that, or sometimes contacting them directly to ask, “Do you offer a direct mentorship program where I can work with you?” Or if they offer a course, to what extent are they available for feedback or for asking questions; or once you finish that course, if they could give you some advice for where to go from there, especially if you have a specific idea of things that you’d like to learn from that point forward and then specialize in, if they could give some suggestions for where you should go. And I feel like most teachers would be open to that and would be willing to do that.
And you also have people like Steven Forrest. If you wanted, for example, to learn that specific type of astrology—which is Evolutionary Astrology or modern, more psychological-type Evolutionary Astrology—he has his own certification programs; or his own program where it often involves studying with him, but then going out for like a few days or a week for an intensive. And attending those is actually built into the certification program. You have to attend—I’m not sure how many it is; I think it’s like three or something like that, but I could be way off base there. But actually attending and working directly with him as part of the group is part of that process. So I know there’s a bunch of different ways of doing that, and there’s a bunch of different approaches, but it seems like it’s becoming more and more common and more and more popular.
And, to me, that’s often the best route just because I feel like as long as you know and have already established that’s the type of astrology you want to study, or approach to astrology, being able to learn the system that person teaches as they’ve developed it in its purest form is sometimes useful. And then from there you can take that and incorporate it into your own approach and either work with that system purely or modify it eventually as you see fit, as you incorporate it into your own practice, and then decide what works and what doesn’t, or what seems most effective to you. And then if you want, you can go off and either just practice that form of astrology that you’ve just learned and specialized in, or you can study other specific forms of astrology with specific teachers in order to incorporate those approaches.
And, to me, on some level, that’s the best way that I’ve seen lately to recreate that sort of ‘Kepler’ program that I had 10 years ago. Because that’s basically what I was doing, except I was doing it in an extremely condense fashion where I was studying with each teacher for just three months—each semester was three or four months—and then switching to another one, to do an intense, intense course for the next three months after that using a completely different type of astrology. And through that I learned Hellenistic astrology and Indian astrology and cosmobiology and medical astrology and all of those other things just through doing intense study programs with specific teachers who specialized in that topic. So the only drawback to that—where you can’t quite recreate the ‘Kepler’ thing—is that they had a program that told you the specific sequence that you were supposed to study these things.
And to some extent what most of those schools offer that’s useful is that they’ll say, “You need to take this course, and then you take this course, and then you take this course,” or “This course requires a prerequisite of this course.” Whereas if you’re trying to just pick an individual teacher to study with on your own, yeah, you’re not necessarily gonna know what to do after that, or if there’s any prerequisites that you need to do before that. So you’re gonna have to rely on your own sense of where you’re at in your studies to dictate what you’re prepared for, or if you’re ready, or if this is the correct path to take for you. And, also, obviously the drawback there is that you’re already making a judgment call about what type of astrology you should learn and you’re choosing to specialize in it. So there might be some other type of astrology that you should be learning or that you would actually like, but if you’re not forcing yourself to study it, you might put it off, or you might not ever study that type of astrology, not realizing or knowing that there’s something valuable there that you otherwise could enjoy.
AR: Right. Well, I think that really answers the questions that I had. And, again, I really appreciate you taking the time to have this conversation. Hopefully it’ll be useful for your podcast. But my path—having this conversation really has made it very clear to me. And as tempting as it is to want to feel validated by a degree, I think that you’re absolutely right that a lot of that would take away from the actual practice. The whole reason I wanted to go to a school anyway was, sure, I want to have the philosophy and the history behind it, but ultimately I just want to feel more confident in my ability to practice and have a very structured way of doing things, so that it’s more efficient.
And I know that not everybody has the advantage of, say, going through college and being taught how to do that, or even just being able to do it, period. My old career was actually writing courses, so I have a very systematic mind. And this at least gives me a little confidence in knowing that not getting a college degree or an equivalent is not going to cripple me. It will definitely take longer to figure out the exact classes or exact people I want to study under, but it’s not gonna cripple me as far as being a good astrologer goes. I think that taking one course just to get started, to have a really good formal understanding, besides what I’ve studied on my own, is probably the way to go. And then from there, maybe, getting a mentor too and studying underneath them just to get a specific area of focus until it all becomes really clear as to this is my way of doing it.
AR: Anyway, I’m totally rambling, but I apologize.
CB: No, it was great. And one thing I will say—how old are you, if you don’t mind my asking, or just roughly even if you don’t want to say?
AR: I’m 27, and my Saturn return is coming. Actually I’m already in the shadow of it in the 3rd house.
CB: In Capricorn?
AR: Yeah, over a stellium. So I’m a little bit stressed out.
CB: Okay. Nice, this is great timing then since that’ll start in December, and that makes a lot more sense. So I was just gonna say that for some people I would actually recommend the university route if you are younger, like if you’re in high school and you’re listening to this, or if you’re in your early 20’s and already in college or on the college track. If I were, for example, to do things all over again it would make sense to go through and get your bachelor’s and master’s degree, and maybe even your PhD, if you can and that would set you up; if you could just study astrology on the side during the process of all of that rather than just not and dropping out in order to focus on astrology completely. I think that would put you in a much better position in the long term in a number of different ways. So that is one critical point that I want to make in terms of that, even though I’ve been a little bit down on some of the university direction in this discussion.
And I also want to say there’s some people that if they’re not primarily trying to be just practitioners of astrology, but their primary interest is something else—and they already have another career but they are interested in studying astrology in an academic context, or they’re interested in focusing on the philosophy and the conceptualization of astrology primarily—then I think getting a degree and going the university route would still be good. But the point is just there’s a lot of other ways that astrologers actually practice astrology and use it with the public or with clients, or use it in their own lives where a more practical direction, not necessarily in an academic setting, would make a lot more sense, and I think the majority of people probably find themselves in that route. ‘Cause what’s funny—I completely forgot about this—a lot of people were actually disappointed when they went to Kepler that there wasn’t more of that. A lot of people were disappointed that there was so much focus on the history and the philosophy and other things that we didn’t get as much time to focus on the techniques as they expected.
So sometimes it’s really useful and important to understand what you’re getting into before you go there and what you’re hoping to get out of it. Like some astrologers, for example, write an astrology column, or do YouTube videos; like there’s some astrologers that are starting to become really popular on YouTube. You can develop your own approach and be successful using any of those mediums without a huge degree of background training or other things like that; it partially just depends on what you’re hoping to achieve and what you’re going for. And sometimes just establishing that really early on can be the most important thing and can clearly early on dictate which path you should take. Is your ultimate goal to become a practicing astrologer? Is it to write a book on astrology? Do you have some sense in terms of that?
AR: You have to understand I have so much Capricorn in my chart, I’m overly ambitious. I do want to be a practicing astrologer more than anything else, but I would love to be able to write books or to give conferences and things like that. I’m thinking about this in terms of a long-term career, so I don’t want to slam the door on any of the options. And I know that’s probably the problem here, but I know that in the immediate future it’s definitely just to be a better practicing astrologer. And my take on it is that I know that you could write an academic book about astrology, but, as you said, taking away from the practice of astrology I feel—this is gonna sound horribly judgmental—but it’s almost hypocritical if you don’t actually practice it while you’re doing things like that. You need to be able to practice it and be very confident in your practice before you can do things like writing a book.
And that’s just my personal take on it, not everybody will agree with that. But my ultimate goal right now, in the next couple of years, is just to be very confident in my practice, and feel like I’ve got a good, firm foundation underneath my feet. In the future, I absolutely would love to write a number of books and things like that; I have a ton of ideas just floating around in my head. And it’s good to have some validation behind it that feels like, okay, this isn’t just me writing down my own methodology, but there’s some history behind it; there’s some philosophy behind it. There’s some higher sense of I’ve studied this and I didn’t just write down my way, but I respected some of what came before. And I at least understand it so that whatever assertions I’m making here make sense to someone who’s going to read this. But in the immediate future, definitely it’s just to be better at practicing and having a better rapport with the client, feeling really good about it. And, again, it’s not because anybody has told me I’m bad at it. It’s probably this Saturn return stuff making me awfully nervous about it.
CB: Sure. I mean, the biggest piece of advice I can give everyone that applies to just about everyone is just read and study as widely as you can, as early as you can just so you know what’s out there, and then choose some specific area to focus on and specialize in, like a tradition or an approach to astrology to specialize in. Even if it’s like pulling together what your own unique approach is from different pieces or different traditions that you’ve studied up to that point. That’s usually the biggest piece of advice that seems generally applicable here. Although you personally are probably beyond that point because you’ve studied relatively broadly already, and you’re kind of aware of what’s out there. But I did want to mention that ‘cause I meant to mention it much, much sooner. I’m gonna run through some of the questions that you had written down, and I just want to make sure I briefly respond to a few of them, if that’s cool.
CB: Okay. So one of them—and I touched upon this briefly, but I just want to return to it—you said, “What is the difference between AFA, ISAR, and NCGR?”
CB: Like I said earlier, I really emphasized the overlapping things in all of them where there’s a lot of redundancy in these organizations, but I do want to briefly mention three unique things and ways that they’re different and where they seem to excel. So the NCGR—one of the things that it does that’s unique and beneficial is that it sets up those chapters, especially in the US, but they also have other chapters in different parts of the world. That is kind of beneficial because it’s one of the ways that a lot of the local astrology groups, NCGR groups, are connected to a national organization. And that has some benefits just in terms of the practice of astrology locally, and those groups will often host lectures and meetings each month where they’ll bring in astrologers and have them speak, and that’s one of the entryways for eventually speaking at the major conferences that happen every few years. So that’s one of the things that the NCGR does that’s useful still and unique.
ISAR seems to have a much better international focus because even in its name it’s much more directed towards international matters. They also host conferences every few years, just like the NCGR, so there’s a lot of similarity in terms of that. But they seem to be slightly better oriented towards paying attention to international matters and incorporating international matters into their basic organizational makeup. And they have regional vice presidents in most countries around the world that have a significant astrological population, and I think that’s useful in creating more of an international community surrounding astrology, so they do a better job of that.
The primary thing that AFA does that I think is still really useful is they have a large publishing arm. They’re a distributor of astrology books, and they have published a number of astrology books in the past few decades, and they keep a bunch of astrology books in print. So that’s one of the things that I think the AFA does that’s still very unique and important that I would mention, especially checking out their catalog of books that are available through their website or that they publish and make available through Amazon. All of the works of James Holden, for example, who wrote an important book on the history of astrology, also wrote a bunch of important translations, were published through the AFA. Yeah, so I just wanted to mention that briefly. Those are three things where I think each of those organizations excel. There’s a bunch of other things and minor things, but those are the ones I wanted to mention.
AR: Out of those three, you also mentioned one more, and it was A-F-A-N. AFAN.
CB: Sure. So AFAN—that’s for astrological networking. And that one—the main thing that they actually used to be really good for was they were the main organization that dealt with legal disputes. Especially in the 1980s and a bit into the 1990s, astrologers would sometimes run into anti-fortune-telling laws, or local authorities would just pull random, arcane laws from centuries ago out of nowhere and try to charge astrologers with things like fortune-telling or other obscure charges like that in order to ban the practice of astrology, and AFAN would be the organization that would have lawyers that would go and represent the astrologers and win the cases. But that’s become a bit less relevant since the early 2000s when most of the cases were won and those laws were struck down as a result of first amendment, free speech issues, so that’s become less of an issue in recent times.
And, personally, often sometimes get uneasy and wonder if that’s gonna stay, or if we’ll ever see a return of some of those things, but at least for now it’s become less of an issue over the past decade. And so, they’re still reorganizing and reorienting some of the different things that they offer, which are things like scholarships and connecting different astrologers and letting them know what’s going on in the community and different things like that. But, historically, that’s been the main thing that AFAN has been amazing for, and there’s still a lot of things associated with that that are sort of important to keep going in case it ever becomes relevant again.
AR: Absolutely. It sounds like a major thing to keep relevant in our minds.
CB: Yeah, totally. And there’s other up-and-coming astrological organizations, or other smaller ones, or ones that are for more specific topics. So, for example, the Organization for Professional Astrologers is an up-and-coming astrological organization that’s more oriented towards practitioners and their issues. They’ve developed their own certification process for doing training in astrological consultations that involves group work. You sit in a group with like three or four other astrologers and do a consultation in front of them and then get feedback. And there’s elements of that program that I really like, there’s elements of that program that I didn’t like as much, but it’s interesting that they’re trying to do something new and unique and innovative. They actually published a book. I interviewed the current president, Maurice Fernandez, about this book, which is a book for professional astrologers and some of the different things that you should be aware of. And that actually might be a great book to mention here. I don’t know—have you come across that?
AR: I actually saw it the other day when I was on Amazon and wasn’t sure if that was something that I should add to my read list.
CB: Yeah, so it’s actually a pretty good overview that touches upon a lot of the issues that we talked about here. Because the purpose of that book is kind of to give an overview of—if you’re coming into this field and you want to be a practicing astrologer—a bunch of different things that you need to know. So I’m very quickly trying to find—oh, yeah, there it is. The Professional Astrologer is the title of the book, but it has a bunch of different chapters. Some of it’s gonna be a little bit more favorable and positive and less critical. I mean, it contains some of the same discussions we’ve had here in terms of giving an overview of the different astrological organizations and stuff like that, but most of its coverage is gonna be more favorable of some of those things rather than critical, in the way that some of our discussion here—I’m trying to be more level with you about what some of the pros and some of the serious cons are of some of these different things. But it’s still kind of useful for getting an overview of a bunch of different areas of the field as a profession and some of the things that you should be aware of and perhaps try to do if you’re trying to become a professional astrologer.
AR: Well, wouldn’t I have saved you two hours’ of time if I’d just bought that.
CB: Sure. Well, to some extent.
AR: No, I appreciate you being absolutely honest and candid about this to the extent that you can because every book has its own aims.
CB: Sure. But that’s another organization, OPA, and they’ve got a few other things they do. And then there’s other ones that are directed towards specific things, like there’s—I think it’s called the Council of Vedic Astrology. So it’s either called the Council of Vedic Astrology, or there’s another one called the American Council of Vedic Astrology. And there’s some overlap between the two ‘cause it used to be one organization and then I think it broke off into two. And one of them is like the educational wing of the organization, and one of them is the organizational membership wing of what used to be the same organization. There are some IRS laws that several of the astrological organizations have dealt with over the past decade or two where they couldn’t have both a membership component and an educational or degree or certifying component. And when they got audited or something they were forced to break those two into separate entities.
So the American Council of Vedic Astrology, or Council of Vedic Astrology, is one of those where they’re now two separate organizations. I think the NCGR technically is as well. The NCGR used to do both, but then that issue came up and they had to split off a separate organization for certification—or for education, one of the two. I’m drawing a blank on the name, but if you go to the NCGR website, you’ll see them linking to this other organization that’s kind of connected. And sometimes they’ll direct their certification off to them; although I don’t really know what the deal is with that at this point. But anyway, I just wanted to mention those two other organizations—the Vedic one and OPA—because there are other smaller organizations that are relevant as well, especially for specialty type things.
AR: Absolutely. Thank you for pointing me in the direction of those.
CB: Yeah. Are there any other questions? I’m trying to glance through this list really quick to see if there’s any other thing we should touch on. But I think that might be about it, right?
AR: I think so. Everyone who might listen to this, I sent him a two-page, Google document of questions, so that’s why he’s glancing through it.
AR: I’m looking through it now, I don’t see anything that we didn’t actually cover, and you’ve covered much more than that. It’s really good to know the history of why some of this stuff came to be. And it makes it a lot more interesting to know about the community that you’re going to join as a professional and kind of what it’s been through. I think just as important as being a good practitioner is knowing what your community has gone through and what you might face in the future.
CB: Yeah. And sometimes you can only get that sort of transmission by talking with other people directly. And actually one of the useful things that I should mention about going to a school—especially if there’s a physical presence where you can meet up and build connections with other people—or that’s useful thing about going to a local astrology group where there’s talks, or going to a conference, is sometimes you can build connections with other people and you can learn things from them, or be directed towards different things that you didn’t know, and sometimes that direct transmission can be really useful. So the other thing I’d really recommend to people who are wrestling with some of these questions is just try to talk to other astrologers that have been around for a while and see if you can get advice and direction, especially if you can lay out where you’re at and some of the things that you would like an opinion on.
And sometimes you have to be careful because you’ll get their subjective opinion or experience about things, which sometimes can be abnormally positive or sometimes can be abnormally negative. And so, it’s useful to contrast a few different people’s opinions on those things before reaching a conclusion. So I’ve probably said certain things here, for example, that another astrologer might strongly object to or might have a different opinion on. And so, it’s sort of important to not just take my word for it, but get a few different opinions if possible.
AR: Yes. And I’m really grateful to you for having this conversation with me. Again, if this gets put on your podcast, I reached out to you with a cold Twitter direct message, just hoping that you might answer—you and like two other astrologers that I really respect—just trying to get advice. And so, I think a good rule of thumb is, first of all, to be very respectful. I just said straight up, “I know you’re really busy, and I hope you answer. But if you don’t it’s okay, I understand.” And the second thing is you’re never gonna actually hit the ball if you don’t swing, right? So I figured if I didn’t even get any answers from anyone, I would just keep asking until somebody answered.
I’m in a position where unfortunately Ireland doesn’t have a very deep astrological community, and certainly no one, to my knowledge, has as much experience or notoriety, not that that’s everything. Typically, when you have a lot of fans, it’s because of something. And so, where I’m at right now—before I moved back to the States—didn’t allow me the opportunity to go to a lot of meetups and things like that where I could ask these questions. And I’m really grateful that there’s the internet because I wouldn’t have gotten any answers at all. And I’m especially grateful to you, Chris, for answering because you could have very well been like, “No, I don’t have time for this.”
CB: Sure. Yeah. I mean, I’ve answered different variations of this question a few times in the past, and I’ve just been meaning to have an actual full discussion about it with somebody and record it, so I could refer people to that in the future. The questions you raised were ones that I think a lot of people struggle with. But you were articulating them in such a way that I felt like it would make for a really good discussion that would be useful to other people. So I’m glad we got a chance to do this, and I hope that other people find it useful. And you can go and listen to some of the other episodes of the podcast where I’ve often interviewed or talked with people about different topics that we’ve touched on here. But I wanted to have a conversation like this because I felt like I could be more open about and more candid about expressing my views.
Sometimes in other podcast episodes where I’ve talked about these things, I’m having to be careful ‘cause I’m interviewing and having the person on as a guest. Therefore I don’t often express my own opinion as candidly as I might because it might differ from who I’m interviewing. For example, if you go back and listen to the discussion I had with Anne Ortelee about certification a year ago—I forget what episode it was, but you can find it on the podcast website if you search for her name. She’s very pro-certification through the astrological organizations, and she’ll make some strong arguments for why she thinks that’s important and why everybody should do that. And then there’s gonna be different podcast episodes like that if you go back through some of the past ones I’ve done where they’ll make the pitch for that, but this was me wanting to give my own direct, unfiltered for the most part opinion, and I think we got to do that today. So thanks a lot for giving me this opportunity.
AR: Well, thank you. And I think that a lot of people will really appreciate you giving your candid opinion because if you had an agenda here, it definitely wasn’t clear to me. You gave me as much of an objective experience with this as possible, which is exactly what I was looking for. So thank you. Thank you very much.
CB: Yeah. All right, well, good luck with your studies, and I hope everything works out. And I look forward to seeing what you do in the future.
AR: Thank you so much.
CB: All right, well, thanks everyone for listening, and we’ll see you next time.