The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 133, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Adam Elenbaas
Episode originally released on November 25, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Transcribed by Mary Sharon
Transcription released April 17th, 2021
Copyright © 2021 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode was recorded on Friday November 17th, 2017 starting at 4:11 p.m. in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 133rd 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. In this episode, I’m gonna be talking with Adam Elenbaas, and we’re gonna be going through and answering some questions that were submitted by listeners of the podcast over the past couple of months. Hey Adam, welcome back to the show.
ADAM ELENBAAS: Thanks, Chris. Thanks for having me.
CB: Yeah, I’m excited to have you on again. So, I was gonna do a Q&A episode a couple of months ago or at least towards the end of September. I was kind of scrambling to come up with an episode due to a cancellation, and I put out a call for questions just to see if there would be any good ones for a Q&A episode and I actually got a ton of them. And me and Adam Sommer started to do a Q&A episode early last month, but we got to the first question and it was actually such an interesting question that we decided to focus the entire episode on that topic which was the nodes which as I’m sure you know are something that you could talk about quite a bit, right?
AE: Yeah, sure. Actually, I took in that episode. It was a really interesting conversation you guys had.
CB: Yeah. I was kind of okay at the time letting it go and turn into just a single topic episode just because it was such an interesting and important topic and discussion to have, but then I felt bad that there’s so many questions that listeners had submitted that I didn’t get a chance to answer. And I thought you would actually be a good person to talk to about some of these because your approach is very similar to mine in some ways, and a lot of the questions that my listeners submitted were almost sort of designed or directed specifically at me. So I thought you’d be a good person to talk to for these.
AE: Yeah, that sounds like a good deal. Obviously, the practical application questions about Hellenistic astrology are right in my wheelhouse. I love those kinds of questions.
CB: Right, exactly. And both you and I have had that experience of starting out as purely modern astrologers and then becoming interested in traditional astrology and studying that tradition or those traditions and then attempting to sort of move back more towards somewhere in the middle in between those two extremes let’s say, I think. And so in that way we’re very similar as well.
AE: Yeah, totally. I’ve sort of lovingly titled the online program that I teach ancient astrology for modern times because for me I find a lot of useful concepts in modern astrology. I’m not ready to throw them out or anything. But like you, I also feel like the study of classical forms of astrology– Hellenistic astrology in particular– has completely enlivened and revolutionized my practice. So I’m really passionate about trying to build bridges for people just like you are doing.
CB: Right. Yeah, definitely. And at the end of my book that was a point. Cuz I was talking to somebody about this recently, and I wasn’t sure… They were surprised on some level that I was saying there was more to astrology than just Hellenistic astrology while I’m a huge proponent of that, and that’s what I’ve come to specialize in. I tried to end the conclusion of my book with a statement that the point is not to go back to the ancient sources and just stay there. And while you could develop and use a type of astrology that’s perfectly legitimate and effective and useful, there’s something to be said by going back into the tradition, finding the best parts, and then bringing them forward into modern times and merging those with some of the good developments that happened over the past 2000 years. And I feel like that’s a place that a lot of us end up coming to sort of naturally, but sometimes it’s hard to walk that line between promoting your interest in ancient astrology versus still saying– But that’s not to say that there’s not anything good in modern astrology that you still should pay attention to.
AE: Right. I also see a kind of disturbing trend in social media, some of the debates that I follow which I just don’t have the stomach to participate in as much as I used to. But I’ll see this trend sometimes where people will say, “Well, there’s really no distinctions between these arrows of astrology. The arrows are subjective. They’re made up by people who are more like historical academic astrologers back then, astrologers today, it all works.” And that kind of thinking I think I’ve had to also sort of solidly reject because I think that the distinctions are defined enough that it’s really worth looking into. So, yeah. I think it’s also important to make sure that what we’re not saying is like, “Yeah, we’re trying to create some kind of complete synthesis or union between the two either.”
CB: Yeah. Not creating sort of like a hodgepodge or something like that, but instead trying to do something that’s sort of careful and well thought out.
AE: Yeah, exactly. I think Lisa’s talk at night like this week demonstrating the usefulness of a more modern concept like the Saturn return but then incorporating sect status of Saturn into the delineation of a Saturn return is a great example of the kind of thoughtful synthesis. It’s not just ‘learn ancient astrology and then if you kind of come back to modern astrology, you’ll see that there’s some grand synthesis that exists.’ I think there are some distinctions that just don’t work together, too. And it’s important to look at those.
CB: Sure. Yeah, that concept of sect has always been one of my favorites when you cuz that’s a great example of something in modern astrology where that really was one of the core things that was like the philosophical or conceptual premise that astrologers in like the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s used for rejecting the distinction between benefic and malefic as a concept is they would say, “Look, there’s people that go through their Saturn returns between the ages of 27 and 30. And one person has a very constructive experience of that time, and another person has a very difficult or traumatic experience of that time.” And that shows that this distinction that the malefics are not always malefic, and therefore we should reject any such distinction. But then you go back to ancient astrology, and you find that there was sometimes actually techniques that could help to specify or clarify when something like a malefic transit or a malefic planet like Saturn when it would be experienced in a more difficult way versus a more positive way and that there’s ways to actually figure that out from a technical standpoint. And you don’t have to sort of obliterate the whole distinction just because of a sort of incomplete understanding of it.
AE: Right. Right. Yeah, that’s a great example.
CB: Sure. All right. Well, so why don’t we transition into some of these questions? Cuz we actually got a ton of really good ones. And the first set of questions comes from a listener– These were all submitted by patrons of The Astrology Podcast over the past couple of months, so generally people that have been listening to the show for a while. And one of them comes from Michael Beeson. And his first question is he asks, “What are the mistakes that most beginners make when they start to learn astrology?” I know you’ve had a number of students over the years you’ve been teaching through your school Nightlight Astrology for a while. What are some of the mistakes that you think that beginners make when they first start learning the subject?
AE: Yeah. There’s a few. I think one of them is I think that beginners can get frustrated with the language acquisition process. When you’re learning astrology-simple analogies, that it’s like learning a foreign language. You don’t learn a foreign language. At least as far as my own experiences have been, you don’t learn a foreign language just by studying grammar and syntax. And you don’t just learn from textbooks. That’s a part of the learning, but I’ll never forget in graduate school taking Spanish classes. And that experience compared to being thrown in over my head in Peru into a Spanish-speaking country, there’s a lot that you learn just by osmosis and just being in the mix of that kind of the people who actually speak the language. I think that something similar is happening in astrological education where there’s a certain amount of material that you have to memorize that you have to know the concepts that are important to understand basic memorization and things like that. But then the actual process of delineating charts of becoming–Well, I would just say becoming a diviner, becoming a reader. I think that that’s a process of language acquisition that takes a long time.
So learning how concepts are used, how they’re used artfully, how the language of astrology becomes intuitive, you have to have a lot of patience and you have to love astrology more than you are impatient that you can’t do astrology as well as you believe it can be done in the beginning. So I don’t think that’s actually like a huge deal because I see students in my programs all the time that by the time you’ve gone through planets, houses, signs, aspects, essential dignity, accidental dignity, you go through all of these things. And you’ve not even touched the outer planets or lots or asteroids or all the other amazing amount of material that’s out there. A student will either get paralysis by analysis. They’ll get frozen not knowing which technique to use or how to use all of them or which ones to use together. So they just get frozen. Or they’ll feel like astrology is too complicated or it can just say anything you want it to say because there’s so many techniques that you can just bend them and massage the chart to get it to say what you want.
So they lose a sense of astrology being something that can communicate objectively and effectively and things like that, but a lot of it is not due to the fault of astrological theory as much as it is to the process of learning. Traditionally, as far as I’ve understood, apprenticeships of most kinds in the ancient world likely would have been lasting for many, many, many years. I can say that from having worked in shamanic traditions in the Amazon where for a decade of my life I studied with shamans whose apprenticeships were 20-30 years long. I think that that was probably much more common in the ancient world and even people like you or myself who are seeing clients pretty often and really immersed in the material, I think. Both of us would probably say that a lot of concepts don’t become really clear through anything but being immersed in the language study and practice of astrology over a long period of time, so I think I could put it really simply and just say the number one obstacle most beginners make is not being patient enough with the language acquisition process.
CB: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And realizing that it’s a long term process. That brings up a lot of thoughts for me actually. One of them which is, what is the astrological equivalent of language immersion? And I’m having difficulty thinking of anything other than basically just reading charts for people and doing consultations, but that brings up one of the classic catch-22s for newer astrologers and for prospective eventually like professional astrologers is that at some point it’s like you have to make this transition into seeing clients or doing astrology readings for other people. But nobody ever quite gets to that point where they feel like they’ve fully mastered astrology before they start doing that because astrology is like this lifelong subject. But in order to get the mastery, you actually have to start seeing the clients in order to see the principles and practice because there’s something about the way that astrology comes alive when you’re hearing a person talk about their own life that gives you a deeper understanding of the principles working in action than anything you could ever read in a book. But there’s this weird middle ground for all astrologers of having to make that leap into starting to see clients even though you might not feel fully a master of the subject quite yet.
AE: Yeah. I completely hear you. In fact, well, there’s two things that I would wanna say in response. One is that I think it’s archetypal. This is the modern astrologer in me anyway that I think the situation that we run into is–There are concerns about not doing any harm to people because you’re a beginner, and that’s very legitimate. But I think on some level, it’s like I think the old classic Disney film Fantasia. And Mickey Mouse is the sorcerer’s apprentice. And he gets a hold of basically the sorcerer’s magic when the sorcerer is away and basically makes a complete mess out of everything. And I feel like there’s something about the situation that we’re in as astrologers that are in some ways and this is why I think Hellenistic astrology and traditional astrology is so important. It’s not just the concepts, it’s not just the techniques or they work better even though I actually believe they do work better in many cases. It’s actually that there’s a sense of lineage, there’s a psychological dimension of there actually being a sorcerer somewhere nearby when you study ancient astrology. There’s a psychological presence.
And you can feel the magician’s archetype of Hermes. You feel this spiritual presence, I would even call it, of masters or masterful people or a tradition of lengthier time and space and apprenticeship than we currently have available. It sort of psychologically becomes a part of your experience, and I think that is as vague as that might sound. I think it’s actually really, really valuable because there’s a kind of accountability that starts to get entrained in your body and your mind in some way. You become a little bit like a Stoic or a Platonist or even like a yogi if you’re studying a little bit of Indian astrology or something. It comes into a little bit, and then I think that the situation of having to wave the wand around with all the masters away becomes more productive because you at least have a sense that there is a master waiting maybe ready to scold you or maybe to praise your work. But I think that the presence of that is there in traditional astrology.
Certainly people can take it to an extreme and start worshipping at the altar of the past and get a big ego about it or think that there’s some elevated master themselves, and that’s not what I’m talking about. But the other thing that I wanted to mention was, so I think it’s also normal even if you do have like a great teacher to need to–I think it’s also very archetypal for teachers and students to need to reject one another at some point and to go off on their own and to make mistakes or to lovingly be pushed out of the nest or something like that. And I think for example I think that kind of happened with Robert Schmidt who I think creates a sort of renaissance in astrology through a lot of his translation work. I know there are others too, but he’s a pivotal figure. And a lot of his students that I know, like you were there. You were living there, Demetra George was there, Joseph Crane, all these people that come out of being really inspired by him.
But there’s also this tension that exists between the stories of how these people have gone off to become disseminators of Hellenistic astrology and how that separation occurred that’s not easy for everybody that tells the story. And certainly when I visited with Robert, I could feel the sensitivity that he had around that same topic of being someone who’s sort of like the discoverer of this and like wanting people to go off and keep thinking and doing work but then being suspicious about whether people are doing it the right way or. So I think that that tension that exists it’s with us on a psychological level whether or not we have any masterful teacher that we can name. And so I think that, like I said, Hellenistic astrology actually provides us with a sense of there being a master in the room. Because it’s filled with the disciplic succession model where compilers in the first couple of centuries of the Common Era are quoting the founders, and their source texts are called upon in an almost scriptural way. And I think when you really immerse yourself in that, it gives you a sense of something holding you accountable.
But in my school the way that I’ve sought to address that problem–Yeah, school. It’s a one-year program that I teach. And at first in the program, the way that I tried to address it– Because I was trying to address my own problem with the exact issue that you mentioned of it’s this catch-22. You’re trying to get experience, but you don’t have experience. So how could you presume to go and do this?
AE: So I think on one level you just have to be audacious and kind of crazy, and that’s okay. But I thought to myself, “Well, what if I created a program where for six months we study all the core theory and then the second six months I have the students reading groups for clients? And then we do workshopping. Because I came from an MFA in creative writing where we wrote our creative pieces and then workshop them in the group. So what if we had a kind of group dynamic where we workshopped each other’s readings for other people and maybe that would create that feeling of accountability in that the benefit of experience all at once?” Well, that did not work at all. It was actually really counterproductive because there would always be in the class a few people who were totally ready and then a good majority of people who just were not totally equipped to read for other people. Wonderful hearts I think understanding astrology but for one reason or another, just not totally ready for it.
And so then I was like, “Okay, well, I can’t–It doesn’t make sense for me to waste so much time.” And it didn’t feel right to bring clients in who really were not getting a good–I don’t think they were getting a good astrological experience. So here I’m like, “Okay, well, let’s think about this again.” Somehow I’ve come into a space through again some sort of audaciousness that I’ve been able to practice for other people at some point, just go out on a limb. I started with friends and things like that, acquaintances and being very cautious about what I said and did and trying to keep it really simple. But, I gained confidence along that path. And what I noticed was that a lot of other astrologers who were being called to actually practice for other people through my programs were naturally just being able to take the material and go forth and put it to use. The ones who I didn’t think should, but we’re gonna go try to do so anyway. I wasn’t going to stop. And in fact would lose any opportunity that I had to continue teaching them if I tried to address it most of the time.
And so then I created a new model. This is what I’m currently using which is to have people–In the first six months we study all the core Hellenistic theory and some sort of comparative with modern theory. And then in the second six months, I read for people. And the students watch the readings of a live client in the classroom. And the client knows in advance of course they’re coming into a classroom and so forth, and the client can be anonymous if they’d like. Just their audio is there, they’re talking to me. And nobody in the classroom is commenting, they’re only observing. And then we, having studied the chart, having had a reading, and then we break it down afterward. I think there needs to be more of that in astrology where people who have somehow found their way into a healthy and productive practice, they’ve navigated that catch-22 somehow or they’ve had a great teacher that really baby-stepped them into things. Those are the people who need to be teaching their students through the live hands-on experience.
I think we need more of us astrologers who are educators to say, “Okay, my method is not–I don’t wanna–I’m so protective of how I work that I can’t allow my students to see it.” Because what I experienced in astrologers in my early studies was that for whatever reason, it seems like astrologers were really protective of demonstrating their readings in front of a group of people. And I actually think that’s part of a general culture in modern astrology that says, “Don’t let anybody know that you’re sort of making it up as you go or don’t let them see your method cuz they might steal it or, I don’t know, other reasons.” But if you’re practicing Hellenistic astrology or traditional astrology, the great thing is that you should be using enough repeatable methods and techniques within a consistent framework that you’re not just making things up and you don’t have some super idiosyncratic method that someone could steal. So, anyway, I’ll leave it at that. But there’s a lot more I’m sure that could be said on all this.
CB: Right. Yeah, there’s a tendency in traditional astrology to have a little bit more of a defined method so that it’s clear if somebody asked you where you could say, “These are the principles or these are the specific interpretive steps that I was taking that I apply to every chart, and this is why I was making this specific statement or what have you.”
AE: Yeah. That’s exactly what led to the transition that I made in my course when I was studying modern astrology. My courses were all about trying to give students the experience of reading for others. And by no design, when I started studying Hellenistic astrology, my readings became more concise, more specific. I think my methods became much more refined, and then reading for other people I also was able to kind of break down what I did step by step in repeatable ways and then being able to give students that. I think Demetra is really, really great at that, too. She really comes to my mind as someone who her book Astrology and the Authentic Self, I think that has some really great I think just like simple–like she has a good crossover for modern astrologers where you have some really simple methods like how to look at the Sun, Moon, and rising which I think a lot of modern astrologers are familiar with. But, when you take that and then you add in an evaluation of configurations and sect and a lot of other things, suddenly you get a much more specific picture and you have a really repeatable method.
CB: Right. Yeah, she actually just sent me the cover of her book. Her next book is gonna be even better. Actually I’m spacing out on the title, but it’s basically a traditional version of her previous workbook which was Astrology for Yourself. But she’s doing it from a Hellenistic standpoint, and it’s gonna be a really good book in terms of outlining that approach and methodology.
AE: Yeah, I really do think that we need a little bit more of that. I know that everyone is an artist, and everyone has their own intuitions and things like that. This is my philosophy speaking. But I feel like one of the most important things about having methodology, I’m not suggesting only one methodology, but having repeatable consistent methodologies is that–Well, there’s a lot of reasons. But I think one of them for me philosophically is that I want to make my client–I want them to get some objective distance between the faded or what I would call because I’m a student of yoga philosophy I would call karmic circumstances of their life, the material circumstances so that they can gain some distance from them, so that they can say like–I’m thinking of quotes from the west from Valens and Firmicus and others which I think you put out in your book in a really nice way. They basically say, “The soul is not impressed by the ups and downs of fortune.”
And in order to get into that perspective that of the soul that’s not the happiness and wealth of the soul is not dictated by whether you get a profession or whether maybe a grandparent passes away or things like that, in order to get that distance I think in all spiritual traditions you have to gain some sense of the material world as a little bit more predictable, mechanistic, cyclical. Those are all features of my philosophy anyway. So I think that having an approach that you can repeat and that demonstrates more objective or concrete predictive results without losing any psychological richness, to me that’s what my practice has evolved into. So I think being able to have teachers that can show you demonstrably like–Okay, just for a brief example, I had a woman come into my online classroom not long ago. And we sat down, and she wanted to know about relationships. So we were doing a sort of topical analysis and looking at relationships, and I talked about a particular configuration in her chart. And then I was able to say, “Okay, let’s look at a few times in your life where this theme would have been really present already.”
And I was able to go back and through zodiacal releasing and through transits was able to identify a time when she got pregnant and then got engaged. And then during the engagement and pregnancy loss, she miscarried and then ended the relationship. And then there were like three others that were all repeated challenging themes in her relationship life. And I think I never would have been able to be that specific to delineate some aspect of a person’s relationship, fate or karma and my philosophy and then to go back in time and to be able to like zero in on times when it would have been really present and active. So, for me, that kind of repeatable observable practice is also something that needs to be demonstrated for people so that people can gain the confidence. And cuz I think there’s also a big mistake that beginners make thinking, well, the thing that makes you successful as an astrologer is sort of on an unconscious level. It’s like the power of your personality. Like there’s a lot of cult of personality stuff in astrology where the more persuasive and interesting and like sort of charismatic that you are, sometimes that substitutes for actual concrete, predictive accuracy. And I think that that’s a problem, too.
CB: Sure. Yeah. There’s actually a few things there. I was writing down notes as you were talking, and there’s a few points that I want to circle back on. So one of them is just doctors having residency programs, and I feel like in an ideal world astrologers would have something like that as well in order to help get them from the point of being completely new to the point of being practicing astrologers. There would be some sort of like oversight phase, and it sounds like that’s actually what you tried to set up although you ran into some issues there in terms of that type of approach and then instead decided to go more in the direction of demonstrating your approach rather than sort of overseeing the students per se. Am I understanding that right?
AE: Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. Yeah.
CB: Okay. Cuz that’s interesting to me just because you’re one of the first people I’ve heard that says that you’ve tried that and you feel like it didn’t work. Do you feel like then that the residency type model can’t work per–
AE: Oh no. No, that’s a great thing. So right now what I’m doing is during my second year program in the second six months of a second year, people who have stuck around for that long what I’m doing right now is in the first year the first six months we work on core basic, doctrines of traditional astrology and kind of comparing them to modern astrology and seeing how the two kind of compare and what’s worth keeping from modern astrology incorporating things like that. And then in the second six months I read for clients, and they get a lot of just hands-on experience seeing their readings done. And I’m encouraging people to practice on acquaintances and to use very simple methods like reading the house position of the Sun, the Moon, and the Ascendant ruler. So I give them some models to practice with in a very basic way. But no, we’re not even going into any forecasting yet. It’s all just how to sit down and read basic things like the ruler of house seven or planets and house seven for relationships and trying to keep it really simple. And then in year two during the first six months, we look at all kinds of prediction methods. So that’s where we go into annual profections, zodiacal releasing transits, solar returns progressions, like all sorts of things that we look at in the first six months of year two.
AE: And then in the second six months of year two, I do a little bit of demonstrating. And then usually it’s a very small group of people who are a lot more dedicated, and so in that second six months then I’m allowing students to read for others and way more successful now cuz people have been through a year and a half with me.
AE: And they’ve gotten to observe a whole bunch. It’s like in any liberal arts program trying to weed people out through the really tough chem and bio classes for pre med.
AE: I think that that’s the same idea that I’m trying to adopt a little bit before I let people take the reins and practice. But then I also have private apprenticeship, and that’s really where I’m focused now in terms of trying to build actual astrologers. Because I think that a lot of people come to astrology not necessarily to practice but to learn. It’s almost like having a really great version of MapQuest on your phone having astrology as a navigational tool for your own spiritual journey. I think a lot of people take astrology for that reason, so I think that’s totally fine. But a private apprentice, it’s one on one. I’m talking shop with them in a much more personal and intimate way over the course of two years. I won’t take apprentices for less than two years. I say that the people that I’ve trained so far who have had the most success, people who are seeing clients and stuff like that and I think are doing a really good job, have been with me for two years privately one on one.
CB: Sure. Okay, so are doing just later in your program some version of a sort of residency program?
AE: Yeah, yeah. I guess my overall point is that I think more of us need to do stuff like this. Because I think there’s people also. At the end of the day, it is a craft. And different practitioners bring really unique elements of the craft to bear on readings. And so I’m not gonna use the decans in the same way Austin might very brilliantly use them in readings. People should, if they can, they should sit with him and see him read for people. I’m not suggesting, “Austin, take this up.” I’m just giving him as an example.
CB: Yeah. No, that’s a good point just cuz like Kepler for example 10 years ago when I was in that program, that was one of the issues students ran into is that they would come out of the school with a lot of book learning. And they would know a lot about things like history and philosophy and different techniques and different traditions. They’d be very conversant in like being able to switch between like vedic astrology and medieval astrology and modern astrology and everything else, but then they would have almost a zero sort of functional net knowledge of how to sit down and do a consultation with the person because actually sitting down and talking to clients and being able to do a consultation. And the things that are involved in that are a lot different than just knowing astrology sort of in theory.
AE: Yeah, right.
CB: And that’s often the missing piece that a lot of students don’t have. Like I was saying at the beginning, that for most people you basically end up just throwing yourself into it at some point and then you learn as you go. But at some point I hope the astrological community becomes more common that there’s more of an opportunity for sort of guiding those transitions through a teacher-type figure so that people can sort of ease into that with a little bit more guidance than they typically have.
AE: Right. Yeah, because at the end of the day, most of how we know astrologers in the public is through either their writing or their teaching or their horoscopes or something like that. And I would honestly say that that’s usually not a great representation of what a person is like as a reader. [laughs]
AE: And so a lot of the greatest astrology teachers are really not as great readers. Some are great at both, and some are better readers than they are teachers. I just was like, “Why is it such a secret about how people read?” where no one has a problem writing books about obscure topics like Black Moon Lilith, but there’s a lot fewer books about methodology and actual client stories and things like that. Or if they are, at least in my experience they were really kind of boring.
CB: Yeah. Yeah, that is an issue. Part of it is just because contemporary astrology, because it was largely being looked at through the lens of psychology, it became more like a therapy session. And people would share and get into very deep stuff about their lives and personal lives, and sometimes that’s not something that’s open for like public consumption or something like that. And I think that’s one of the reasons that there’s this privacy orientation towards not sharing or demonstrating consulting skills. There is also the thing you mentioned whether it can be some sensitivity cuz perhaps some astrologers are having a lack of structure about the way that they do consultations and some maybe trying to involve intuition or something else like that that’s sort of guiding their consultations rather than having like a structured approach might be a separate issue. I know one of the things I have been impressed by that OPA is trying to do is they do these sort of sessions where you have like four astrologers, and you practice sort of giving a reading to one of the astrologers in the group and then the other to watch and then give comments or feedback afterwards. And the person the astrologer who got the reading gets the feedback afterwards. It’s not a completely perfect system because it’s not exactly recreating what a consultation would be like in the field, but it’s at least an attempt to get some comments and some feedback and to show other people what your approach is and maybe get some ideas about things that you could improve.
AE: Yeah, one of my students actually just told me about that. She was present for one of those groups. And, yeah, she seemed to enjoy it. So, one thing that you said that just sparked something in my head was the thing about psychological astrology is really interesting. I think this is part of the Renaissance that we were kind of talking about with modern and traditional forms, sort of this interesting renaissance of ancient Greek astrology and so forth is–Think of Jung who I think obviously is one of the major figures of modern astrology even if he’s not like writing books like Dane Rudhyar was. Obviously I think Rudhyar’s bill inspired Jung for sure, but Jung said something one time. If I remember correctly it was, “Astrology reflects all of the psychological knowledge of antiquity.”
I remember when I first read that I was like, “Oh man, that’s so beautiful.” But I read that as someone who was really sort of unconsciously indoctrinated by Jung and his presence within the New Age movement. And I think the problem with a statement like that, I actually mentioned this, I was trying to converse this with Sam Reynolds and Lynn Bell on a recent thread that Sam had on his Facebook wall. But I said, “I wonder if there’s something about that that’s not just sort of co-opting astrology for the purposes of psychology.” Because it turns out that astrology is also capable as ancient astrology is also capable of basically offering us insight into the phenomenon of modern psychology. It’s also the other way around and–
CB: Right. It has a reversed–
CB: It has a reversed so that astrology is a subset of psychology where in fact psychology is actually just like a subset of one of many things that astrology can do.
AE: That’s right. Yeah, exactly. And I think turning it on its head like that is a part of what this is about. Okay, so James Hillman who I’ve talked about a lot in the past, he was someone who very similarly noticed that Greek mythology was being co-opted for the sake of basically psychological coping in sort of clinical diagnosis. So, if someone’s ill and we say, “Oh, they have a great mother complex.” or if someone’s ill and they have the Oedipal complex. And so, mythology is being co-opted for the sake of diagnosing and treating illness. So, again, it’s still a sort of rational clinical medical model that’s co-opting mythology. And Hillman was very sort of irate about that at different moments in his writing Re-Visioning Psychology which he was nominated for a, was it the Pulitzer for, and was all about saying let’s return psychology to myth. Again, he was somewhat similar. He wanted to turn it on its head. He believed that the real renaissance of Greek culture within the modern psychological landscape would occur when psychology itself was mythologized.
And I think it’s very important to understand right now that part of what’s happening in this modern renaissance of astrology is that we are trying to astrologize psychology or astrologize psychological astrology or something similar. And I think that that process is part of why there’s such a secretiveness also about the client setting because it’s easy to objectify methodology. It’s like it’s no different from people saying, “Here’s a blog about different ways to treat, different herbs to take for different illnesses or something.” Or it’s like, “Dial up WebMD, and you can find all the information you want about the body and the illness and different systems and organs and sicknesses and things like that.” Or, “Read the DSM-IV or whatever, and you’ll find all of the labels for the illnesses.” But all of that can only be used by the expertise of the doctor or the psychologist or the therapist. So it’s sort of like, “You’re right. There’s a protectiveness around the client dynamic.”
But it’s also a culture. It’s sort of an ivory tower academic culture of therapists, and I think that it’s prohibitive. And I don’t really think it’s that mystical or in line with some of what these mystical lineages were about or how one is initiated into the art form of astrology from the standpoint of therapy or astrology being used for the sake of therapy. I think that model is a little elitist and exclusive even though I think Jungian psychology is really enlightened and interesting. I really love Jung, but I think that one of the reasons that we also need to open up these sessions to show people how readings are done and try to become a little bit more consistent with methodology and things like that is because it’s not therapy. And I really believe Renaissance again is trying to turn it on its head so that we see psychology as a subset of what astrology is or can do.
CB: Sure, and actually in line with that, that was the regret that I had about a recent episode where earlier this month we did the Saturn and Sagittarius Saturn return retrospective which I had been planning for for quite a while to do for at least–I’ve been talking about it since earlier this year. And I wasn’t sure. There were two different approaches I could have taken to do it. One approach was me getting together a bunch of Saturn return stories and then kind of like summarizing them quickly so I go through a bunch of them versus another approach that I thought about wanting to do was do actual interviews with people and then record those and then play the interview of the person talking about their experience and the events that occurred during their Saturn return and me sort of talking with them about how that related to their chart. And I ended up going with the other, the first method where me and Lisa and Patrick sat down and just talked about them. And I summarized some including stories that listeners had sent in to me. And it was great.
And we were able to get through 13 of them which is a lot more than I would have been able to get through the other model, but you really lose something. The one thing that I really regret about doing it that way is remembering or being just fully reminded of the fact that you really lose something when you attempt to describe what happened in the consultation and what you heard from somebody else. And to attempt to summarize their story in a short like cliff notes or bullet point version, you strip out a lot of the nuances and the details and the emotions that are actually conveyed to you in the moment when you’re talking directly with a person about their experience of a specific event or transit or what have you in their life. And it’s in those moments when you’re talking directly to the person about their chart in a consulting setting that the chart really comes alive to you, and you can see the details and the nuances and the subtleties underlying some of the placements.
And that’s something that you cannot get from a book, you can’t get from another astrologer attempting to teach it as an example chart in a class or on a podcast like I did earlier this month. It’s like you can only get that from talking with the person directly from a relatively an astrologer. Let’s say, relatively well-trained astrologer talking with the client and talking them through their chart and drawing out some of those nuances and details directly. So I’ve actually thought about redoing some of those interviews for like a workshop or something where I actually talk to and interview those people directly for like let’s say 45 minutes and then record the consultations and then have that as something that people can listen through separately in order to get a deeper understanding for how these people actually experience their Saturn returns.
AE: Oh yeah, that’s a brilliant idea. You really, really, totally resonate with the idea that the report the reporting on the actually the case study, right? I think the problem with the case study is it’s like describing the scent of the soup that you just made rather than letting somebody taste it.
AE: But I think that also just two little thoughts come up while you were saying that. And one is that it’s also tough to create the environment of an actual animate dynamic astrological experience for others when there’s too much artifice like–
AE: –telling people they’re gonna come into a class or they’re gonna be observed. I have experienced that people are not always natural or they seem to hold back a little bit more or whatever. And the other thing is that astrology can be very therapeutic, the privacy, the anonymity. There is an alchemy that’s occurring. Even if we don’t think of ourselves as therapists, it’s like the Olympics and keeping a tight lid on it so that the cooking of the thing inside can happen. So I guess I don’t mean to be so cavalier about it, but at least my thought is that there should be some way of bringing the magicians and training into that inner sanctum of the experience itself if we could try to do that more in thoughtful ways. Because I fear that if there’s none of that, then it collapses into the extremes that I was mentioning before. But to your point about trying to reconstruct the experience afterwards, you’re totally right that it’s difficult to do.
And it’s also just made me think it is difficult to bring people into that experience even if a person knows they’re gonna be recorded. Sometimes that can be a problem. I haven’t noticed that though. And half of the time I’ll just say, “Let’s just get into a reading.” And, “Are you okay with it being anonymous in front of a classroom?” A lot of times people are, and it doesn’t really prevent them from being natural. And I would think that your experiences with the Saturn return interviews were similar. I’m sure you actually got some–Even though they know they’re being recorded, I’m sure that it was able to go pretty deep.
CB: Yeah. Well, people had written me ahead of time and shared the stories thinking I would summarize it. But I’m sure there’s issues where if you tell a person, “This is gonna be recorded and then replayed for an audience later.” that sometimes they might be more careful about what they share, choose to share about their personal life versus don’t. And I’m sure that’s problematic, but it’s still a whole lot better than just someone else summarizing it later or any of the other strips watered down things that you could get aside from talking to the person directly and trying to capture at least some portion of that astrologer client dynamic.
AE: Right. Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah.
CB: The other thing that comes into play here that I remembered I was reminded of recently is there’s a real difference between–There was something I was thinking about recently about the idea of like wisdom that comes through experience and that can only come through time. And it’s because I’ve been thinking a little bit lately after having some different discussions and arguments and sometimes like tensions with some young astrologers or students or people that are newer to astrology. One of the things I’ve been reflecting on recently was, it’s an idea actually, several years ago that Steven Forrest gave a talk on this at like a NORWAC or something. And it’s something that I would never have accepted when I was an astrologer in my earlier early 20s, but there’s a difference between reading like a text of delineations like let’s say Rob Hand’s Planets in Transit that gives some great modern delineations of different transits and sort of knowing theoretically what something like a Saturn return could coincide with or indicates sort of abstractly versus yourself going through that transit and having like a really sort of intense intimate experience and developing a very intimate understanding on a personal level of what that transit is actually all about. There is actually a difference between the abstract or theoretical understanding of something that you can get from a book or from a lecture or something like that versus the more experiential understanding of going through it yourself or seeing other people you know closely go through it. And that’s one of those annoying things that unfortunately, you can only really get sometimes with time and experience and being in the field for a while and through picking up and observing some of those things firsthand as they’re happening real time. And you can observe the nuances and details that are happening that go along with that. That’s something I’ve had to begrudgingly accept as I’ve gotten more and more into my career as an astrologer that I would have been much more reluctant to accept early on.
AE: Yeah, right. Yeah, that makes so much sense because in some ways, even you and I in our 30s, or whatever, we’re like young pups, really, who have yet to see the Uranus opposition, who have yet to see a lot of different transits. It’s very Saturn nine in a way. Time does sometimes really equal wisdom.
CB: Yeah. And I think that was actually like Steven Forrest, the title of his talk, because he was just finishing up his Second Saturn Return or something like that and it was about Saturn and wisdom or the wisdom that comes through age or experience. And, I say that it’s something that I begrudgingly accepted because I know if you told me that in my early 20s, I would have told you some not very nice things. [Adam laughs] I would have said my knowledge of an astrologer, I know plenty about astrology, and I can whatever run circles around you as an astrologer with my knowledge of astrology, but it was largely abstract knowledge at that point that was not grounded in the experience of having seen a lot of clients or the experience of having gone through some of those transits or seeing them happen in real time myself. And that’s actually one of the recurring themes then even in our discussion here, which is this idea of abstract book learning versus experience and the challenge that being one of the real challenges for students of astrology, especially newer students of astrology. But the part of the catch that comes along with that is that you can’t know what you don’t know, or you’re not going to know what you’re missing, or what you were missing until you actually have it. So, even somebody’s telling you that is itself almost an exercise and just an abstract statement that you can understand abstractly, but you won’t fully get until you have that experience yourself.
AE: Yeah, that’s really well said. I think about it as an example, if it came to my mind, we were talking when I first started astrology and I was starting to see clients, it just seemed like every client that came was holding up a mirror to something happening in my own life. And that became this weird, almost like a classroom meme. Part of doing astrology is that you’ll notice that the clients that you attract in this kind of language are always holding up a mirror to you and all this stuff, and I got busy as an astrologer. I don’t know. I started seeing a lot of clients at a certain point. And now I’m like, I don’t have time for that. [Adam laughs] I have no idea. I’m not relating to my clients in that way anymore. And once in a while, something really profound might stand out some synchronicity or something, but it’s just funny how a little kernel of what I thought was astrological wisdom about how astrology worked was actually evidence of being a beginner. And that’s how I would see it now.
CB: So, you’re saying you don’t think that that’s a continuing trend, but it was just an artifact of you being an early study somehow, or what do you mean?
AE: Yeah. Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. I think that probably I don’t know exactly why, but probably either the novelty of doing astrology readings for the first time or something about the insights that you’re gaining into yourself in life when you’re first doing readings creates the sense that all of your clients are always somehow really resonating with or holding a mirror up to you and your own inner process. But when I see 30 clients a week, sometimes, it’s like that feeling of that magical feeling that every client is somehow blown out of the water by the… It’s actually just a full-time job now. You know what I mean? [Adam laughs] I’m not saying it doesn’t ever happen, but I’m saying that I think sometimes there’s certain memes that are really pronounced when you first start studying. It’s not that they’re untrue, but it’s that as time wears on, they’re also not true in the same way or to the same strength or quality that they were when you first began, maybe.
CB: Sure. I feel like I still see it. I guess it depends on it. I’ve never ratcheted up my consultation schedule that much to doing 30 in a week, so I don’t. But I feel like I’m still seeing that as a continuing trend. You’ll see certain themes or certain trends that will reemerge over groups of clients I’ve had. Sometimes, you have two or three clients in a row and they have the same rising sign or the same Saturn placement. And so, you just get a lesson and three different instances of that working out and seeing the crossover between them, or sometimes astrologers do, I still think that’s a relevant thing whether you’re new or not sometimes can draw certain placements to your certain things that you might share in common with your clients. And I often don’t know if that’s because that’s just the type of people that are attracted to you as an astrologer because they like your approach or your style, or if there’s something else, I don’t know, underlying that in terms of however astrology works and the synastry between astrologer and client being one component, and however the consultation turns out,
AE: Sure, yeah. No. Yeah, I definitely don’t mean to be, I don’t know, broad and sweeping about it, and I don’t see 30 clients would be…. Usually, I do New Year’s readings, and also my Kickstarter is done every year, and then I’m really saturated with readings that I’m doing. So, that’s not a typical week for me, but it does get to the point where I do now see hundreds of clients every year and with that level of clients, maybe I don’t pay attention as much because there’s so many or something like that. But my simple point was just that, I think, whereas… And I do see, especially if I’m studying something, if I’m really studying a method, or if I have an idea that I’m working with in my craft, then it does feel like the universe sends me three or four charts in a row that really somehow focus and almost teach me something about that method. That definitely happens and stuff like that. I guess what I’m saying is some of the… Okay, so here’s an even simpler example that maybe will be more basic. When you’re starting off, and I remember, I would make sweeping generalizations every time I see someone with this sun sign, it’s like this, and then, five years later, you’re like, God, you’ve seen so much more that the simple generalizations that you think are these profound truths in the beginning maybe are a little bit more nuanced and not so easy to generalize.
CB: Sure. Yeah, definitely, that process of seeing things in practice and seeing the principles and practice can definitely do a huge number on you in terms of being a little bit more careful in some of the statements and understanding the nuances and the mitigating factors and other things like that that’s actually been a recurring thing that’s come up for me and a few students over the past few weeks, which has been, not really students, but just I tend to there’s certain annoyances, and I think it’s a side effect is getting older, but there’s certain things that annoy me more than they used to. And one of those things is sometimes when you attempt to write an article, or do a video, or teach a principle and you put forward the concept, just the basic concept, let’s say a distinction, very often, there’s always that one person that has the exception to the rule, or has the mitigating factor will pipe up and say that doesn’t work in my chart, and sometimes be very aggressive about saying this principle that you just taught doesn’t work in my chart before you’ve gotten to the point of saying here are the exceptions or here the mitigations or what have you. [crosstalk] And that’s always… I don’t know. Do you have that experience, or have you had that?
AE: Yeah. Unfortunately, I think it is part of the, at least my observation is part of the territory of traditional astrology is that it does attract a certain amount of fussiness and nitpicking where people get into peeing competitions about who knows the most obscure, who knows how to spot the instant mitigation to whatever’s being said. And I think it makes it challenging for astrologers who are trying to teach people traditional astrology. I just noticed that times in traditional astrology forums that you’re sharing a concept or a chart or something that you did in a chart or how you read a chart, and people are eager to apply and demonstrate their really technical knowledge and stuff like that. And it’s annoying because it’s a feeling it stalls the process of actually elevating or building some resonance of success with a method.
CB: All right. Well, and it’s also this additional issue that is sometimes common amongst astrologers, or there’s like certain types of astrologers that have more problems with it than others. Although on some level, maybe at different points in our career, we all fall victim to it, but it’s that I tried to summarize it last week and do a principle or statement. But it was basically what I said was, when you reject an astrological technique, or conclude that a technique is not valid, be careful that you’re not doing so simply out of ignorance of how the technique in its entirety actually works. So, sometimes when you’re learning something new and you start applying it, and you find some exception, or it’s not applying in the way that you think that it’s said to, sometimes people will just immediately reject it out of hand, not realizing that there were other factors that they needed to take into account that would allow the technique to work just fine, but they didn’t get to the point of really giving it a chance to try the technique in its entirety, but instead rejected it in a cursory fashion before a complete investigation had taken place.
AE: Yeah, that’s something going back to what do beginners possibly struggle with that I would say, for example, that students when they first learned the language of dignities sometimes, or when they first learn about whole sign houses or something like that. Well, whole sign house is actually a great example because that’s a sticking point for a lot of my students who are coming from modern astrology, they’ll learn about whole sign houses, something in their chart will switch and they’ll say, “Oh, it’s no longer accurate, so I can’t use it.” And I’m like, “Well, you have to get through a lot more theory.” When you talk about aspects of configurations in Hellenistic terms from your textbook, modification of maltreatment, like we need to, we need to get through a lot of things because probably there’s a really good explanation for your experience that’s still very discernible within a whole sign chart, but the patience may not be there. So, rather than understanding entirely all the pieces that may go into delineating a chart now that it’s in whole signs, they’ll just throw it out right away because something doesn’t look the same as they think it should, so they say, “Well, it’s not working.”
CB: Right, right. The one I’ve always had the most problems with, or this comes up the most often is sect. Because when you first teach sect, you have the basic distinction that’s between day and night charts, and that planets function differently based on whether it’s day or night. And then by extension, in some instances, you can do things like say that, for example, due to sect that people who have a day chart, generally speaking, will tend to experience the Saturn return is more constructive whereas people with night charts can tend to experience it as more challenging or difficult in terms of the spectrum of constructive versus more extremely difficult significations and manifestations. And you’ll introduce that as a bit of a basic distinction. And then immediately, sometimes there’ll be a person with a night chart who says, “That’s not true, or I had to find Saturn return and it worked fine in my chart and I didn’t have many difficulties or any difficulties during that time.” Before I’ve gotten to the point of saying, there are exceptions to this rule such as if Saturn has dignity being in its own sign or exaltation, or if Saturn is being bona fide by a close configuration with Venus and Jupiter and then it turns out that that person did have those mitigations but never got at that point in the discussion, I guess, basically.
AE: Yeah, yeah. Of course. And then it’s really frustrating, I think. I think there are certain people who are, and not just in ancient astrology, but all forms of astrology, that they’re… I think that sometimes it’s like maybe there’s some wounding around authority where anyone tries to present methodology or this is how it works, so this is what to do or something like that, that they ruffle immediately on some level, maybe because they’ve had bad experiences or something in their life with authority, or they feel that there’s something potentially inflexible, they’re really sensitive to that. And then, it’s like, well, we might as well get into that. So, then if the technique that’s being explained doesn’t line up, it’s not just well, that didn’t work. But I wonder if there was something else going on that will lead to [crosstalk]
CB: Is there something I’m missing versus there’s something that the teacher is wrong or immediately jumping to assumption of [crosstalk] the teacher.
AE: Yeah. That’s right. Yes. Did you jump to this assumption that the teacher is wrong? And I think that that’s a psychological issue that it just seems to exist on… I’ve seen that in so many different workshops with astrology.
CB: Sure, that makes sense. Well, not actually, that was something we were going to mention in the last episode I did where we were talking about going to conferences and some of the things that you should avoid. And one of the things we wrote down that I don’t think we got to was, don’t be that person that it’s the middle of a lecture, you are sitting in the lecture, that person just taught something and then you raise your hand and attempt to say something that completely contradicts what the teacher or the lecturer is saying, or where you say something that’s more making a statement or a rhetorical statement, rather than actually asking a genuine question or something like that.
AE: Yeah. I think that I’ve seen that happen so many times. That’s true. [Adam laughs] That really does happen. I feel like there’s a science fiction realm where it’s actually just one species of creature that is just taking on different faces, trying to sabotage otherwise really enjoyable astrology lectures. [Adam laughs] It’s so frustrating when that happens, you know?
CB: Yeah, you’re probably right that probably there’s something, or some archetype, or there’s some psychological thing there because it seems like it’s something underlying that there’s something in common sometimes. But anyways, so that’s vaguely related to because it’s something I think we could classify under the original question that as with the last Q&A episode, I’ve turned the single question into the entire discussion. [Adam laughs] [crosstalk] I think that’s okay.
AE: We should go forward. We should answer. We should try to do a rapid fire round where we just answer, take three or four more and just give shorter answers. That would be fun.
CB: It’s like Michael asked five. So, our first guy has actually a bunch that could carry us through the rest of this episode. And I think that would be okay. There’s a second one that we could get to from Cindy, who has some related questions. So, maybe if we just did these two, that would be sufficient. Because I know we only have, it depends on your timing, but we’ve only got 15 minutes left if we stuck to the original timing.
AE: I think we could go up until eight, my time.
CB: Okay, so like another 35 minutes?
AE: Yeah, that’d be fine.
CB: Okay. So well, and it’s like I don’t necessarily want to leave the topic per se, so let’s just see what happens. Because one thing we’re focused on, one of the things we’re talking about like teacher-student dynamics. And you brought up the idea of lineage and pointed out in the Hellenistic tradition, there was this Hermetic succession model, but there’s a lot of interesting things like that. But just to answer Michael’s original question, one of the answers that I had where he asked, what are the mistakes that most beginners make when they first start to learn astrology, one of the things that I would say is becoming overly focused on minor things that aren’t really that important. In my personal opinion, I would say things like minor aspects, or jumping to asteroids, or other things like that, before really solidifying their understanding of the fundamentals. I think there’s a tendency to do that. And sometimes, that’s easier because if you get your chart from astro.com, it’ll list your biquintiles and your sub tiles and ceiling tiles and everything else. [Adam laughs] And so, the student will have this immediate tendency to want to know what is this aspect that’s in my chart, not realizing that that might not be on the same level as a superior square of Saturn overcoming some other planets in the chart.
CB: So I would say that’s, I don’t know, going to vary for different people because there are people where it’s like they make their entire career out of what are otherwise “minor things” and I know even recently, Rick Levine made a post arguing that in his opinion, minor aspects are just as important as major aspects, but I do think it’s important for astrologers to focus on the fundamentals first before going off into other areas too much because sometimes the pull can be really strong to do that. But ultimately, it’s not going to give you as strong of a foundation as you might need later on.
AE: Yeah, I completely agree with that. I liken it to learning tarot. I don’t think there’s so much if you compare astrology to tarot in some key ways, I think the comparisons are really fruitful. When you’re studying tarot, one of the first things that you do when you study tarot, you understand what the numbers mean, you understand what the different suits mean and what the court cards mean, and you focus on the meaning of the Major Arcana’s. There’s basic things that you learn. Nobody questions that and says, “Well, have you learned the super esoteric numerology that’s seen within the Kabbalah. Of course, the realm of tarot is also incredibly deep and sophisticated, it can get really esoteric. Nobody questions that you should still start learning tarot by learning the basic meanings of the numbers and the court cards and things like that. I think one of the reasons that people have such a hard time with that suggestion in today’s astrology is because there’s this false, I always call it a false belief, that ancient astrology is somehow less evolved, that it’s not as open-minded, that it’s fatalistic. We had this talk the last time that I came on, but it’s a set of assumptions about what the fundamentals are. And the idea is that these asteroids represent evolved consciousness and the outer planets and minor aspects and all of these esoterica, it represents something fundamentally more evolved and everyone wants to be a level 10 mystic. So, to me, that’s where the rejection of the fundamentals comes from.
I like Rick a lot and I don’t think he’s wrong, but for some astrologers, the minor aspects may work or be just as relevant to their practices as the other aspects. However, when I have really refined…. I’m at a point right now in my practice where for almost two years, I look at the outer planets very briefly and then I eliminate them from my view. When I do a reading, I eliminate aspect lines from the chart. So, I don’t have any view of the aspect lines or glyphs or anything like that, and I eliminate all asteroids, right? So, I’m looking at the traditional seven plus the nodes and sometimes, the part of fortune that those things are little additions that I’ve added in. But I’m at a point now where I could look at a person’s chart and with just the seven planets be hitting the bull’s eye pretty closely, being able to tell them maybe what they do for a living, or very specific details about different areas of their life purely through a much more sophisticated understanding of the basics.
I don’t see modern astrologers at the reading…. I’ve had a lot of readings. That’s one thing that I’ve done a lot of in my spare time is getting readings from different astrologers. And especially when I first started, I never saw a lot of modern astrologers who used aspects and minor aspects and asteroids and stuff like that doing anything, but to utilize the aspects and minor aspects and asteroids and stuff like that to regurgitate clichés. Some of them were interesting, but no one was speaking very specifically to me about my fate or my destiny. I’m sure that Rick would have done a better job. I didn’t have a reading with him. But yeah, so I have the same beef. I think it’s like that attention to paralysis by analysis that either that or it becomes too curmudgeonly, but I just think that a lot of bad astrology is done by incorporating way too much.
CB: Sure. Well, that brings up some of the other questions that Michael, our first questioner, asked. So, I’m just going to read them off really quick because we already touched on some of the answers, but that might help us focus as we’re winding this discussion down. So, his other questions in order were, what are your core principles when you interpret a chart, and where does construction of delineation come in? Question two or three was, what do you believe a consultation should look like, and what purpose it should serve for the client? Question four was, what 20% of astrological tools and techniques should I focus on to cover 80% of the tasks of an astrologer? And then finally, the last two questions were, what basic skills do you expect someone to possess before, this is directed at me, what basic skills do you expect someone to possess before taking your Hellenistic course, and what is the best way to acquire them? And then finally, who are the best astrologers you know, and how did they develop their practice?
AE: Yeah, those are all really good questions.
CB: Yeah. Well, and they’re tied in. We’ve already actually touched on them. We’ve started to touch on some of them, even though we hadn’t brought them up yet, just naturally with some of the previous things that led to them.
AE: Yeah. I’ll go through mine. This will be fun. Core principles, I’ll do this really quickly. I think, actually, we’re probably in agreement as I’m seeing. Maybe some of your answers are in shared notes. I think core principles for me are… Well, I always start with talking about what a client consultation looks like, this will be easier. I always start with, is this person coming to me for what type of reading? If they’re coming for a general consultation like a first birth chart reading, then I look at the sect light, I look at the luminary that’s not of the sect favor, so I look at both lights. And then I look at the ruler of the ascendant and I focus on any angular planets, planets in angular houses. And that, usually, being able to break that down for somebody step by step, I have a method that I use that helps me tell a story with the sun, the moon, the rising, and any angular planets. And I use the same method with that every single time, it takes me about an hour. And then there’s maybe some time for conversation at the end, or I have a 90-minute session where we go through that in the first 60. And then I do the highlight of the major transits and say, the next six months or year, something like that. If somebody’s coming for a topical reading, then I use a totally different approach. If someone’s saying, I want to know about relationships, or I’d like to know about this or that, I’m always careful to let people know what I can or can’t do in an hour or in 90 minutes.
But let’s say they want to talk about relationships and money. Okay, I can spend half of a 60-minute session talking about relationships in the birth chart, and 30 talking about money, or something else, whatever. And then topically, I’ll look at the ruler of a house, the planets in the house, any planets that may naturally represent the topic and try to see what seems to emerge most clearly or definitively most concretely. So, those are the kinds of briefly if someone wants to come in for a more universal conversation or more topical conversation, that’s always going to shape what I do. And if I can, I think what you mentioned this too, Chris, is giving insight within whatever topics we’re talking about in either natal universal reading, or more topical specific reading is giving some sense of that past transits that may have activated that, that topic or the themes that you’re talking about, and hopefully, some insight into what’s going on now or in the future if there’s time. But I do have a reading where basically, I just read a person’s birth chart for an hour because I found that it really takes me about 90 minutes to be able to do a nice reading of the chart plus forecasting.
CB: Sure. And that really gets to the heart of one of his later questions, which is, what do you believe that consultation should look like, and what purpose should it serve the client? And my answer to that is it’s almost not possible to get the definitive answer to that for me, since every client wants something different, and each astrologer may not offer necessarily what a given client needs, in which case, sometimes you need to refer them out to somebody else, or you need to adjust whatever techniques you’re using, depending on what their focus is, but that, sometimes even the focus of the consultation really depends on what the person wants to talk about in terms of the three times which are, past, present and future because sometimes, the client wants insight into the past. Other times, the client wants insight into things that are going on in the present. And other times, they want insight into something that’s happening in the future. And you might use different approaches for those three, you might use different techniques depending on what topics the person wants to focus on. If it’s career or relationships, it’s hard to answer that. I know there’s other astrologers. If I was a psychological astrologer or something like that, I feel like I could probably articulate this as my answer to what every client should get out of a consultation, which should be healing or psychological understanding or something like that. But it’s hard to answer that question because clients want different things or expect different things out of a consultation.
AE: Yeah, that’s a good point. I think my own perspective is probably in terms of what purpose should it serve. First of all, I think, as an astrologer, it’s important to define what you think the purpose of astrology is. And I think astrologers are also going to define that differently. I know, for me, at the beginning of a session, I always tell people, here’s a little astrology one on one, this is why I practice astrology, this is why I think we do astrology. But there’s no way in which the reading ends up having to force that conclusion on the person. For me, the purpose is in line with my basic, I guess, when my wife and I own a yoga studio, I am definitely on a very particular lineage that I study from Indian philosophy and yoga, and I also have a contemplative Christian background, so those things come together. I would say, for me, the purpose of a reading from that perspective is to encourage a person to get to know their karma, their faith, their destiny specifically, so that they can draw a distinction between their eternal spirit soul and the material incarnation that they’re living.
So, I think the purpose of doing all this is not so much to empower people to become more conscious, not so much so that they can create some great material outcome with their consciousness, but so that they can respond to their fate, karma and destiny in a way that starts to facilitate liberation over the course their lifetime, or many lifetimes. And that’s a part of yoga philosophy. In some ways, that’s similar to the philosophy of evolutionary astrology, but it’s also quite a bit different in some key ways. But I tell people at the beginning of a reading, so a simpler version of that, I just say, “My hope is that by getting to know your destiny in this lifetime, that you will be able to meet that destiny, respond to that destiny with a deep level of acceptance, whether it’s good or bad, and not be getting yourself lost in attachment to the ups and downs of life, which from my perspective, is a source of suffering.
AE: I think the point is though that I actually really agree with you, Chris, is that different clients will have different needs, and different astrologers will have different beliefs about what astrology’s purpose is. And certainly, I think it’s possible to really have a defined sense of purpose as an astrologer or, and to recognize the needs and purposes of your clients without feeling like anyone needs to get really rigid about anything.
CB: Yeah. And I think that’s the biggest thing is just the different clients are going to come to you with different philosophical and religious backgrounds that may or may not be in alignment with your own as an astrologer. So, I guess the most general statement I could make is just that the purpose of astrology consultation for me as the astrologer is to give the client a greater sense of perspective on their life, both in terms of the past and the present and the future, and a greater sense of meaning and purpose and overall order and structure to understand some of the underlying themes in their life that play out during the course of the past, present, and future. And then, what they choose to do with that, or what they choose to walk away from that with is up to them because even that’s something that’s hugely debated amongst astrologers, which is what are the implications of astrology, and what does it mean that any of this works? [crosstalk] The ultimate question is that astrologers don’t know, none of us know. We all have different speculations and we all have different inferences that we’ve drawn from the fact that astrology works. But the biggest thing that’s weird about the astrological community is that it’s almost this alien technology that this fringe group of people in society found and have been trying to understand and work with, but don’t really fully comprehend and often get the sense that they’re only scratching the surface of what it’s capable of. And then we all draw different conclusions about what its existence actually means for the world and for the universe and fate and everything else.
AE: Yeah, definitely. I probably take a slightly different take on it, but I think probably our views are more compatible than not because I also believe that there’s… I feel like as much as I’m an ecumenical, I haven’t had a nice liberal arts education and want to be very careful to respect that there are different beliefs and different paths out there. I also believe that there’s a potential dogma or philosophical commitment in saying that none of us know. So, my own personal belief is that there’s no way of getting off the hook that even I don’t know, eventually leaving it to the unconscious becomes a part of what we end up having to explore, but that belief that I have comes from the commitment of my own philosophical position. [Adam laughs]
CB: Right. Yeah. Well, I’m just saying it’s like I do have certain fixed philosophical positions like one of the things, but I just acknowledge that I’ve run into debates or even things that I think are evident or clear conclusions that one could draw other people would object to or have objected to. For example, one of the conclusions that I draw from the fact that astrology works as well as it does, and the fact that your transits, and your Time Lords, and everything else is something that’s baked into your birth chart from the moment of birth. And therefore, with a lot of these traditional techniques, we would make the same statement if we were making predictions about the person after the first day where they were born, as we would say when they were 35 or something like that, that your career peak periods are going to happen in this decade, your relationship peak period is going to happen in this decade, you’re going to have this transit when you’re 35, and so on, and so forth.
And so, one of the philosophical conclusions that I often draw from that is there’s a greater underlying matrix of meaning and purpose and fadedness to people’s lives than we realize. And to me, I take that fatedness as something that means that there’s a greater sense of meaning and deliberateness and purposefulness in the world, rather than the opposite view, which I think is the prevailing view in the materialistic almost a scientific atheists version of the cosmos, which is just that everything is completely random, there’s no meaning and purpose to anything that happens in the universe, and we’re specks of mold [Adam laughs] that are flying around on a rock in the [crosstalk] middle of space, and we just have to deal with that and then accept that. And then astrology to me, one of the conclusions I draw is that it’s almost like the opposite, that there’s some underlying sense of meaning and purpose to people’s lives. And you can see that the astrology is reflecting that by indicating things that will happen in their lives from the moment of birth. But I know, it’s like Lisa and I have had left debates about this because she’s pointed out or at least, she’s argued that you can’t necessarily draw that conclusion that just because the astrology works that it means that the universe is meaningful or purposeful. And so, I know that even that’s something that’s up for debate.
AE: Yeah, that’s right. I usually go the other way around. I say the universe is meaning and purposeful, meaningful and purposeful and therefore, astrology exists. [Adam laughs] [crosstalk] I’m just teasing. [Adam laughs] No. I think that going back to tiny little bow around this piece would be back to what you originally said, which is that it’s important to ride the line or hold the tension between serving your clients and holding space for the diversity of beliefs and religious backgrounds and so forth, while also trying to cultivate some of your own conclusions because I do think that we come to conclusions as astrologers and they may not be the same, but those conclusions, we make them conscious and clear to ourselves, maybe to our clients, maybe not. I think it’s important. And I also think it’s important amongst ourselves that it not be taboo to allow our beliefs about what astrology is or does or its purpose, that there should be allowance for healthy competition. It shouldn’t be dogmatic fundamentalist rejections and this just severity around it is too much if it’s like that. We should be able to have conversations with each other.
CB: Sure. Yeah, definitely. That makes sense. So, let’s see. So, we talked about what are the basic techniques and tools. You gave your answer. I would just say that the 20% of astrological tools and techniques that you need to focus on to cover 80%, or basically the things you mentioned in that list for me is just like sect, the basic significations of the planets [unintelligible] dignity, houses and their rulers, transits perfections, and maybe zodiac releasing, and that covers 80% of the tasks that an astrologer will have since most tasks that astrologers are asked about are natal related or related to natal astrology.
AE: Yeah, that makes, that’s totally… And I would almost say that one of the most important things for me, and I would put almost at the top of the list, would be really understanding the house topics, really understanding the matrix of house topics and how they’re related, and also the planetary like sympathies and antipathies understanding. It is really what you meant when you said dignity, I’m assuming, but understanding some of those passages, I don’t remember if it’s Antiochus, or where it’s from, but it’s the planetary contrarieties on exultations and depressions, that little section. Do you know which I’m talking about?
CB: Yeah, it’s in Rhetorius.
AE: Right. So that section is super helpful in terms of understanding how planets get along with each other, and why some of these dignities exist. So, I would almost say utilizing those concepts, but understanding some of the inner logic of them, some of the symbolic rationale that appears is behind the use of certain topics. I found that having that is a bit like having a skeleton key. It gives you the rule or the basic concept, but it also teaches you how to use them in lots of different situations.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And once you do learn those basic ones, you can also apply them to other branches of astrology like electional or horary, where there can be a lot of interchange between at least basic concepts.
AE: Yeah. I’m thinking of a really basic one like why is the moon in Capricorn in its detriment, or in its exile or something like that. And if you understand well because it’s in the sign of Saturn and the lights have natural opposition to Saturn, Saturn represents the darkness and mortality and the lights are related to life. If you understand those things, I feel that underlying almost like archetypal rationale informs your use of the concept of moon and Capricorn in its detriment in a way that it’s that fundamental that I’m really most interested in.
CB: Yeah. No, that’s a really good point. And that was something we really focused on throughout last weekend when I did a webinar for the Hellenistic course, where we went through and read some of the Hellenistic delineations of planets and signs. And when you do that, when you read Dorotheus, or Manetho, or to lesser extent Firmicus, you see that almost all of the delineations are largely about what is the meaning of the planet, and then what is the meaning of the planet that is the ruler of that sign, and then what happens when those two planets come together or when you blend those six significations, and then you realize that that’s really the core of the dignity and ability schemes, which is just how does the guest planet get along with the host planet whose sign it’s staying in? And then by extension, you realize why it’s good for a planet or auspicious for a planet to be in its own sign because it’s a sign in which it doesn’t have to rely on any host planet to provide it with additional modifying significations.
AE: Yeah, exactly. So, I think we’d probably agree then that it’s these basics like sect and dignity house and house rulers, the list that you mentioned was so spot on. It’s also, we would add to that, that it’s really trying to understand the basic inner logic of those concepts because they teach you how to use them as well.
CB: Right. Yeah, definitely. But then again, circling back to an earlier topic, that’s also one of those things that you need to get those basics down to understand the theoretical structure [Adam laughs] of all of this, but then you have to actually start doing it in practice, and it’s through observing things happening. Especially, it’s good to research things in the past. And I think that’s really important. If you want to know what Saturn in Capricorn is going to be like going back and researching other times that Saturn has been in Capricorn or people that have Saturn in Capricorn in their charts. But what’s most illustrative is watching the things happen live in person. And so, for example, that’s why I wanted to do the Saturn in Sagittarius retrospective because it’s been really interesting watching some people going through those Saturn returns over the past two or three years, or even just watching the world events where somebody that writes about mundane events regularly, some of the mental manifestations have been surprisingly literal of Saturn and Sagittarius, but that in and of itself has been really useful and instructive. And I think all astrologers have learned some additional things about that placement just as a result of watching that transit happening contemporaneously.
AE: Yeah, yeah. Really well said. Yeah.
CB: All right. Well, I think that brings us to the end of our time here. So once again, we got through one guy, one person. Thank you to Michael Besian for submitting the questions.
AE: Who are the best astrologers that we know? We should say that real quick.
CB: I don’t even know. I can’t even answer that question just because there’s different astrologers that specialize in different traditions who I would say are my favorites, or who I think have done some of the best work, but whether that qualifies, what you mean by best astrologer really is a tricky thing.
AE: For modern, I really like, I’ll just say my mind really quick just in case anyone cares, I like Liz Greene for psychological, and Richard Tarnas for archetypal. These are obviously masters. I like Steven Forrest for evolutionary. I think he’s great. I like Chris Brennan, Demetra George, Joseph Crane, Ben Dykes, John Frawley and Robert Schmidt, Robert Hand for traditional. I think those are my favorite traditional folks. And probably, those are my answers, but there’s so many. Those are just some of the ones that I really love.
CB: Sure. I’d say Geoffrey Cornelius for the philosophy of astrology, [crosstalk] hugely important. Hand’s work Planets in Transit is still one of the defining works on modern astrology and modern transit theory and I really think one of the big reasons why Rob Hand is so important or seen as so important is because of that book that he wrote in the ‘70s. Howard Sasportas was really good for psychological astrology. [crosstalk] I was reviewing some of his work recently, his work on the houses or on the outer planets called The Gods of Change.
AE: That’s a great book. I remember that one.
CB: Yeah, that’s a good one. I could go through the list. Demetra, of course. Tarnas’ book is a great summation I feel of that certain trend of modern astrology that Tarnas’ book was the high watermark of that. And it’s going to be interesting in retrospect because it was written right at the end point before the traditional thing really started getting big. So, you’re going to see this interesting thing where Tarnas’ book is probably going to be one of the last major summations of late 20th century astrology before the traditional materials started infusing and making its way into contemporary modern Western astrology where, now all of a sudden, everyone’s using whole sign houses, which just blows my mind from the perspective of knowing what the community was like 10 years ago where less than 5% or 10% of people even knew what that concept was.
AE: Right. And I think I just had Becca, Richard’s daughter come and speak at Nightlight. And she is really, really interested in bringing more of the… You see, one of the things about, some people may know this about archetypal astrology is that one of the hallmarks of archetypal astrology, the way that Tarnas practices it is it’s primarily a study of wide orbed outer planetary interactions in relationship to mundane world events. And Becca, even part of the reason for doing that was to basically bring astrology into academic respect, so he did involve signs, houses, things like that. Becca is now the Archai of Archives at California Institute of Integral Studies. And I think we both were talking with her at NORWAC, Chris, about traditional astrology, and I think she’s carrying the mantle of her father’s work in many ways, and has a real interest in trying to bring in topics of houses, signs, traditional historical developments in astrology into the work of Archai, at least, which is really interesting because that journal is in many ways the standard bearer of his work. So maybe, Becca, and other people coming out of CIIS, which is his astrological legacy will be interested in this crossover. I imagine that there’s a lot of potential there.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And I have been interested, and I’m planning on doing an interview with Becca and Grant, who are the editors of Archai now when their next issue comes out, which shouldn’t be too long now, I think. [crosstalk]
AE: I know that they’re submitting an article on the houses for them for that and I know that they’re gathering, she’s writing her dissertation right now on Tolkien and Yung, so I know that process has slowed down their own process with the latest addition. But anyway, I just think that’s one way in which maybe the Tarnas Legacy of Cosmos and Psyche may evolve through his own daughter’s work.
CB: Right. Yeah, definitely. And then that’s partially what’s interesting is just, that’s why I was saying and that’s why I think Tarnas’ work might end up being that last summation of modern astrology because I think it’s going to be really hard at this point for all of the different schools going forward to operate independently from each other without any crossover or without any influencing of each other, even sometimes in very small or very minor ways. But the fact that you have evolutionary astrologers that are using the whole sign houses or psychological astrologers that are talking about sect, or the joys or other things at that point means that this revival of traditional astrology is like seeping into other fields and therefore, almost contaminating them in a way so that [Adam laughs] you don’t have just these pure isolated traditions anymore before too long.
AE: Yeah, yeah. And maybe, hopefully, they’re enlightening them and not just giving them a cold. [Adam laughs]
CB: Right. Yeah, infecting them with deterministic astrology. I don’t know. We’ll see. We’ll have to make that the topic of the next episode. All right. I know we’re out of time at this point but thanks a lot for joining me for this discussion today. I have no idea what to title this. Do you have any suggestions about titles for this episode? What was our underlying theme and topic? It ended up being spin-offs from the initial question which is what are the mistakes that most beginners make, but it turned into something more about education and then teaching and students and things like that.
AE: Yeah. I think a great title would probably be the first question; what are the mistakes most beginners make when they start to learn astrology? And then maybe a subline and other interesting conversations. [Adam laughs]
CB: Right. All right. I’ll think about that and see what I come up with. Anyway, thanks a lot for joining me. Where can people find more information about your work?
AE: Oh, yeah, right. So, you can check out my work at www.nightlightastrology.com and I’m on Facebook @Adam Elenbaas.
CB: Awesome. Excellent. Well, everyone should check out your website. Thanks a lot for joining me again today and thanks everyone for listening and we’ll see you next time.