The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 168, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Dennis Harness
Episode originally released on August 17, 2018
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 Andrea Johnson
Transcription released August 28, 2021
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CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. This episode was recorded on Monday, August 13, 2018, starting at 12:56 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 168th 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 astrologer Dennis Harness about dynamics and sometimes challenges that can arise for consulting astrologers when they’re seeing clients. Hi, Dennis, thanks for joining me today.
DENNIS HARNESS: Hey, Chris, great to see you again.
CB: Yeah, it’s been a long time. I saw you at UAC a few months ago, but otherwise, it had been a while since I’d actually met up with you in person. But you’re actually one of my first teachers. I studied Vedic astrology with you at Kepler for a while about a decade ago.
DH: Yeah, that was a great, great experience.
CB: Right. My introduction to both Hellenistic and Vedic astrology happened at the same time and that became of course like a passion of mine over the course of the past decade that I eventually wrote my book about, but you were part of that whole introduction.
DH: Oh, great. Yeah, that was a wonderful time with Demetra George and just the cross-pollination that we saw going on between Hellenistic and Vedic astrology.
CB: Sure. All right, so part of the genesis of this episode is that I’m actually in the process of developing a course called The Professional Astrologer course to help astrologers who’ve been studying the topic for a while but aren’t professionals yet to make the transition into doing consultations, and then eventually figuring out how to make it and become successful in the field. But I wanted to talk to you today because one of the topics I’m trying to address is some of the things that new professional astrologers need to know when they’re trying to make that transition into becoming a consulting astrologer and some of the dynamics that might arise that they should probably be aware of.
And I remember when I was at Kepler studying with you that one of the classes or one of the talks that you gave one day was kind of connected with this topic, and you had written an article where you talked about different consultation dynamics that astrologers need to be aware of, both some positive ones as well as some potential challenges. And I always really appreciated that talk that you gave, so I thought you’d be a great person to talk to about this topic. So maybe we should start by just introducing you to the audience. What’s your background in astrology, and how did you get into the subject?
DH: I started studying astrology around the age of 20, and I was originally drawn to Western or tropical astrology. I didn’t even know about Vedic astrology, so this is back in the mid-70s. And I read books like Rob Hand’s book, Planets in Transit, which is kind of interesting because it works whether you’re using a tropical or sidereal zodiac. He doesn’t even talk about zodiac much in that book.
DH: And then Sakoian and Acker’s book, The Astrologer’s Handbook, and Pelletier’s book on aspects, which, again, that’s one of the other areas where Vedic astrology and Western astrology really connect up. The aspects between the planets are there in both systems.
DH: So long story short, I was studying it and it was on the back burner, I was getting my degree in counseling psychology. And what happened was in 1980, I went to Santa Monica, California to see Swami Muktananda and to meet his astrologer, Chakrapani Ullal. So in that summer of 1980, I had a reading or a consultation with Chakrapani, and it was just really profound. I mean, it was profound on a lot of levels, but he was somewhat predictive, definitely in his approach to astrology, which is one of the challenges we’ll talk about today. But I remember one of the things he said to me right off the bat was, “You’ll be married twice,” and I hadn’t even been engaged once.
DH: So a little disconcerting, but sure enough that came to pass in terms of the two marriages. But he also went on to say during the session, “I know your mind very well: and then he made this statement, “perhaps better than you.” Now I would not say that to a client, but it had a strong impact on me, and at the time, there was some truth to what he was saying.
So fast forwarding, I had this session with him, but the books written about Vedic astrology are mostly coming from India at that point, and so they had a lot of Sanskrit or Hindi in them, and so they were kind of hard to follow for me. So I put Vedic astrology on the back burner and continued to study Western astrology for a number of years until 1986-87. James Braha came out with a book called Ancient Hindu Astrology for the Modern Western Astrologer, and that book really opened me up to really being able to make the bridge between tropical or Western astrology and the Vedic–or at that time it was called the Hindu astrology system. So then I just studied, I studied with James Braha for a while and some other teachers I had.
And in 1988, I started seeing clients professionally, so that kind of dates me a bit. 30 years I guess I’ve been in practice and started seeing clients professionally then, and I would do kind of a hybrid of Western astrology, and then the Vedic system, I would bring it in. And then over the next few years, it slowly became more and more part and parcel of what I did was providing, again, Vedic astrology for Western astrologers, as well as clients that maybe wanted to tap into the astrology of India.
CB: Okay. And while you’re doing that and developing that whole practice, you had also gone to school for psychology, right?
DH: Correct. Actually it was interesting, I had graduated from the California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in San Francisco, in 1988 and that was right at the time when I started seeing clients professionally, so there was a big shift that happened around 1988 for me. I actually had a solar eclipse that September right on the Sun, the same exact degree of my Sun. So I always thought even though we look at solar eclipses sometimes as being challenging, they can be a rebirth or a kind of a reset of a whole new energetic. And so, I started my practice and slowly developed it over the next several years in terms of seeing more clients.
CB: Okay. So what does that bring to you? I mean, I’m sure that brought something unique for you in terms of your approach to astrology, in terms of having some of that background in psychology and counseling. Did that bring a greater interest in the counseling aspects of astrology, even though you were getting into and starting to practice a more predictive form of astrology?
DH: Yes, I really felt strongly that a good astrologer–which, again, I really would emphasize–has some really basic counseling skills and communication skills. Because you can be very accurate with your ‘predictions’ or forecasting, but if you can’t deliver that information in a way that’s empowering to the client, you can really do some damage.
So when I saw this going on sometimes, particularly with predictive work and work coming out of India, sometimes the way it was practiced, I felt it didn’t really have that basic empathy and communication skills to a way that was empowering the client. And sometimes I think the shadow side, whether you’re using Western or Chinese or Vedic astrology and you’re predictive in your work, I think the shadow side is, again, that it can create worry or fear.
So I was really strong about really being able to present the information so that it could help the client to take discriminative action in their life. But rather than being, how would we say–I like to say that good astrology is a ‘choice revealer’. The astrologer is a ‘choice revealer’ rather than a ‘choice maker’, to leave the client with a sense of self-determination in their life and the importance of emphasizing freewill and the grace of the divine, which can be stronger than some of these astrological configurations in the chart.
CB: Okay, and that brings us to a topic. So one of the things–it was before my time–that I heard about happening is that even though in the West, there were things like Project Hindsight and the revival of interest in traditional forms of astrology amongst practitioners of like modern Western astrology, the advent of interest in the West in Indian astrology predated that by at least a decade, when some of the books by people like James Braha or David Frawley or other people like that started coming out in the 1980s, and astrologers started setting up organizations for the study of Indian astrology in the West.
And one of the things that I heard about was that there were sometimes debates about what was ethical in terms of the practice that came up because of the sort of conflict between some of the modern counseling dynamics versus the more–I don’t know how to describe it–but predictive or fate-oriented approach to astrology in India. Was that true? Could you describe some of that process that was happening in the 1980s and ‘90s?
DH: More in the ‘90s. And again, I have to think about the actual date, but I was involved with ISAR, with the International Society of Astrological Research, about creating their ethical guidelines. I was on their board. And I worked with Dorothy Oja and Glenn Perry on those ethical guidelines, and we worked for many months on that, developing and honing those ethical guidelines for ISAR.
And then I asked Ray Merriman, who was the president at the time, if I could use that model for the American College of Vedic Astrology and actually the American Council of Vedic Astrology, so that we would also in our field have these ethical guidelines and standards. And what I did was kind of wordsmith some of it to really meet more of the issues around particularly prediction and forecasting and some of the other issues, remedial measures, things like that that I felt needed some policing in a good way. And then our board with ACVA, we basically voted to utilize this and put that on our website as well. So that was kind of how the ethical guidelines came into Vedic astrology.
CB: Okay. And does a lot of the issue come down to issues surrounding fate and free will? Do you think that’s part of the fundamental difference in terms of, for example, describing your consultation with Chakrapani or first Vedic astrology consultation? Some of the statements that he made were very straightforward and sort of unequivocal, but also seem to be based on almost a philosophical presumption that certain things in your life were sort of predetermined. Do you think that difference between fate and free will is a major sort of thing that came up during that time in terms of importing Indian astrology to the West?
DH: Yeah. And I think any astrologer, and actually just philosophy in life, we have to struggle with the whole issue of fate and free will and destiny. And I like to use the words ‘patterns of destiny’ more than fate, because fate, to me, is kind of rigid. But in the karmic theory of India, which I think is important to discuss, there are two types of what we could say are more patterns of destiny: one is called sanchita karma, which is all the karma accumulated from our past lives; and again, Vedic astrology is definitely based on reincarnation theory. The second point is what’s called prarabdha karma, which is the karma that we’re working on in this lifetime; and so we could say the chart is a reflection of our prarabdha karma or these patterns of destiny.
And then on the free will side of the equation is what’s called kriyamana karma, Chris. And kriyamana is our action that we take in this life, our behavior. Sri Yukteswar, Yogananda’s guru and Vedic astrologer, said that basically the first lesson on the spiritual path is to learn to behave. And so, this involves how we act, how we behave in the world. And then a second part of the free will equation is also called–let’s see the name of it. It’s called agama, and agama is how we envision the future, so how we’re envisioning the future.
So I always look at that as kind of like there’s this interplay between destiny and free will, so they’re both true. And it’s kind of a paradox that I think we all in a way kind of struggle with in terms of our philosophy. And I think whatever our philosophy is with those questions then we bring it into our practice, and it does color or influence how we work with clients.
CB: Sure. So figuring out what your philosophy is and maybe articulating that or being very clear to clients what sort of philosophical or spiritual or metaphysical approach you’re taking for granted might be important just in terms of being able to contextualize any information that you transmit to them during the course of a consultation.
DH: Exactly. And if they do not hold the belief system in reincarnation, there’s a challenge there and it’s important for the astrologer to be sensitive around that issue, even though I would say probably 80-90% of the clients that come to me have some kind of foundation in terms of reincarnation theory.
CB: Sure. So most clients then, I guess, do their work–or do their homework–before going to see an astrologer and typically will have some general understanding of what the astrologer’s approach is, that if you do Vedic astrology, you’re gonna have some basic underlying beliefs in things like karma and reincarnation and so on and so forth.
DH: Exactly, exactly.
CB: All right, and in terms of that, one of the things that you talked about–because part of this discussion is based on an article that you have on your website titled, “Vedic Astrology and Transpersonal Counseling.” And I’ll put the link to that in the description page for this episode, but it’s on your website at DennisHarness.com
But part of the basis of this discussion and part of the direction that you go in the article is talking about different counseling styles, but it seems like there’s a difference that’s already coming up here about what you called ‘the astrologer’s bedside manner’. And I’m wondering if that’s part of what the basic distinction is between let’s say your approach versus the approaches of somebody like Chakrapani in terms of the way that the information is presented. Are there different sorts of styles in terms of presenting the information that might be more or less useful or just might be more suited depending on what your philosophical approach is?
DH: Yes. And actually instead of ‘bedside manner’, I coined the term ‘chartside manner’.
DH: Basically, there’s three different astrological consulting styles that I’ve seen–of course, there’s many more than that, but just three basic ones–and the first one is what I call the ‘informational style’. And Chakrapani, basically his style was more that. For example, some of the clients he would see, he would just make a recording of the session, wouldn’t even be with the client, and he would just send it off; at that point, they were cassette tapes to the client. So there was no interaction with the client whatsoever. It was just him looking at the chart and reading what he thought was there, what was important, and then sending it off to the client.
This can also be true when I did the session with him in person in 1980. It was still kind of the same informational style. I don’t think I asked that many questions. I just sat and listened to him, and he delivered the goods, so to speak. And again, it was a profound experience, so I don’t mean to put down this style, but for me, it was kind of limiting, especially with my background in counseling. Because to me, one of the differences between let’s just say a traditional astrologer and a psychotherapist is astrologers are paid to talk, whereas psychotherapists are paid to listen.
DH: So in my practice, because I had the counseling background–my PhD is in counseling psychology–I wanted to interface more with the client and make it more of a dialogue between us rather than just an informational style. So I called the second style kind of more of a ‘counseling style’, and I think maybe even a better term that I find is kind of a ‘consulting-type style’.
One of the models that we use for the American College of Vedic Astrology is kind of more along the lines of–how would we put it? The term ‘spiritual life coach’ is used in terms of that. So you can get a degree or whatever–get certified, excuse me–as a life coach and that may be one model to go with. And so, the counseling style, again, involves more of this interactive style–asking questions, having the client ask questions, things like that–so I think that’s important.
One of the things that I do with my clients is I have them send an email of the different areas that they would like me to focus on, so I’m not just doing a blank slate kind of session, because, again, my interest is more using it as an effective tool, as a diagnostic tool, and a helpful tool to help the client take discriminative action.
CB: Sure. So instead of just looking at their chart and telling them what you think is important, actually asking them ahead of time what areas they would like to focus on.
DH: Correct, correct. So this style again, to me, is what most astrologers do, and there’s great programs out there for that. There’s the ISAR counseling skills training that you can take, and there’s also the Organization for Professional Astrology, which I was involved with for a number of years. It used to be called PROSIG or Professional Astrologers Special Interest Group, and then we changed the name to OPA, the Organization for Professional Astrologers, and I think those programs are really excellent. And then as I mentioned, we have actually in the AVCA online program, the third year of it, this consulting or that spiritual life coach kind of style, consulting style.
CB: Yeah, one of the things I thought was interesting about the OPA approach–because I participated in one of their retreats once–in terms of some of their professional development was getting together a small group of astrologers; it was four astrologers for my group. And then each pairs up and reads another person’s chart, but they do it in front of the group and then there’s like feedback that comes after that from the other professional astrologers in the group about your consulting style and things that were strengths versus other things that you might work on.
DH: That’s great. I was involved with those trainings for a number of years and they’re excellent. Actually one of the things that we did back in the Bay Area in San Francisco, back in the ‘90s, is there was a group of us that met, and we’d talk about some of the challenging issues that we had doing astrological practice. And in that group was Greg Bogart who’s an amazing therapeutic astrologer, and Glenn Perry was in that group, and there were a couple other astrologers from the East Bay. But anyway, we would meet once a month and it was really profound to get that feedback from other astrologers, particularly around some of the issues that came up that were more, again, challenging in practice.
And that actually leads itself to the third type of astrological counseling, which is more rare–but becoming more part and parcel of particularly transpersonal psychology–is more the ‘psychotherapeutic model’. And this would be a model where you’re maybe seeing the client once a week, and you’re doing more in-depth psychotherapy. Carl Jung, the famous psychiatrist/psychologist from Zurich, Switzerland, his daughter actually was a very well-known astrologer in Zurich and would actually do the charts of not only clients but also the analysts there.
DH: And Jung himself had a real profound interest in astrology, and he would say things like, “In cases of difficult psychological diagnosis, I would often cast the chart to see things from a different vantage point, a different point of view.” And he went on to say, “I often found the chart elucidated some points that it would have taken me maybe years in psychotherapy to get to,” so he was a real proponent of astrology, but he also saw the shadow side of it as well, which he discusses in some of his writings as well.
So there was that strong transpersonal flavor that Jung basically popularized, which ‘transpersonal’ basically means ‘going beyond the ego’ or ‘beyond the persona’. So to me, astrology can be a real effective tool part and parcel if someone does have more of a transpersonal orientation to psychotherapy.
CB: Okay, so really the blending, the full merger or marriage of depth psychology with astrological readings is what the third approach is.
DH: Yeah, and people like Richard Tarnas, and again, Greg Bogart, Glenn Perry, some of those. There’s a number, of course, of other psychologists. Zip Dobyns was one of the early pioneers in that field of psychotherapeutic astrology, so again, I think that model is nice. The point is that you need to be licensed I think as a psychotherapist to be really qualified to do that work. At least, I think that’s more of a safer path to go or a more prudent path to go. Not necessarily that everyone needs to take that path, but again, I think that may be a way to kind of cover your bases and cover your training.
CB: Definitely. Yeah, that would be arduous. You would have to do a lot more training in terms of that, in terms of getting your full training as a psychotherapist, but then also getting some decent training as an astrologer at the same time, which is basically the path that you ended up taking throughout the 1980s it sounds like.
DH: Yeah, and then I would say one of the greatest things that we have to offer our clients is our own state of consciousness. So this gets into the whole, what I call, ‘the astrologer shadow’, which is issues around, again, doing our own inner work. And the school I went to, the California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, emphasized a lot of doing our own psychotherapeutic work, our own self-inquiry, our own working on the shadow or the unconscious aspects of our psyche.
CB: Right, so that’s actually a big part of being a psychotherapist. You’re also supposed to turn around and look at yourself, and you’re supposed to go through the process as well in order to be aware of and continually working on your own psychological issues.
DH: Correct, correct.
CB: Okay. So what things can astrologers be aware of? Maybe that’s a good starting point. So you’ve mentioned a few times the astrologer’s shadow. When an astrologer starts seeing clients, what are some of the potential pitfalls that might come from the astrologer?
DH: I think it’s actually interesting sometimes when you’re doing really excellent work, where you just seem to be spot-on, and the clients are loving your work and you get a lot of positive feedback and all that type of thing, which is wonderful of course. But what happens sometimes with that whole process is that the astrologer can get inflated, and they can get kind of–how would we say–grandiose in their own self, their own viewing of themselves. And that whole pitfall is kind of making oneself feel godlike or goddess-like, where you’re omniscient, where you’re omnipresent, and that, to me, is a big part of the astrologer’s shadow, that grandiosity.
CB: Okay, so their egos are sort of getting out of control and thinking that they’re always right or that they have powers beyond what they actually have.
DH: Correct. And then also with that issue, besides the grandiosity when you’re, again, doing really great predictive work, there can also be, yeah, that sense again of infallibility; and again, that that can be a slippery slope.
CB: Okay, so what is the antidote to that? I guess part of it is acknowledging your own limitations or the limitations of astrology.
DH: Yeah, I think the keynote of a good astrologer is a sense of humility, and this doesn’t mean self-effacing. Again, it’s important for a good astrologer to have self-esteem and self-worth, but to have a sense of humbleness that we don’t know all, see all, life is a mystery. And astrology can be a helpful road map for sure, there’s no question about it, but again, to not overstep our bounds.
And also, Chris, when you’re working with a client, especially if you’re not a psychotherapist, let’s just say that some uncovering of sexual abuse comes up or even physical abuse, some kind of trauma. And if you’re not trained in working with trauma or working with abuse like that there is a potential there to do more damage, because you can flood the client with too much information. Whereas a good psychotherapist will go slow and steady in those areas and allow that unfoldment of the healing process to take place rather than trying to do it in an hour-and-a-half.
So when I was doing my astrology, we had Rolodexes. So I always said one of the greatest things an astrologer can have is a good Rolodex or a good referral system, so that you have psychotherapists or counselors that are trained in doing therapeutic work with some of these more difficult aspects that may be presenting themselves during the astrological session.
CB: Okay, so part of it is recognizing your own limitations and sometimes realizing when maybe you’re not the right person for this person to talk to–either not the right astrologer, in which case you might refer out to another astrologer–but other times, perhaps astrology is not necessarily the answer or you need to refer people to an actual counselor or psychologist.
DH: Correct. I mean, if you get a client, for example, that has severe depression and suicidal ideation, I think it’s really important to offer that client some other resources that could help them if you’re not trained in dealing with those kinds of issues. So again, I think it’s really wise and prudent to have some prudence and caution as we work with clients and to be aware, as we’ve said, to not overstep our bounds.
CB: Sure, that makes sense. And that would be tied in with the general theme of humbleness as opposed to thinking that you can perhaps solve everyone’s problems or solve all problems or that you’re capable of dealing with anything that comes at you, when perhaps there may be some things that you run into in a client session that are outside the scope of your own training or own abilities.
DH: Correct. And a lot of us with clients, because of the model that we were kind of trained in and our clients are trained in, you see the astrologer once a year. And so, quite often, to try to do all this incredible work and insight and diagnosis and healing and all that during an hour-and-a-half session, again, it’s pretty grandiose to think that way.
CB: Sure, I mean, that raises an interesting question though about frequency because astrologers do have different expectations and different standards. It seems like there is no set standard in terms of frequency–maybe once a year is. But it seems like some astrologers that have more of a psychotherapeutic model might be more comfortable seeing somebody more regularly and that being part of an ongoing relationship and something that’s healthy, whereas there could be other situations where somebody’s seeing an astrologer too frequently and developing maybe an unhealthy dependence.
DH: Correct, correct. That’s one of the pitfalls I see with sometimes difficult client styles. The client kind of develops a psychic dependency or dependency on the astrologer, and again, it may not in the long-run be of service to the client because they may need more in-depth help.
CB: Sure. Should we get into that–the challenging client styles?
DH: Yeah, I can mention some of them. And I want to preface it with saying that, again, I think it’s important to respect all clients even if they present with some of these more, what I call, ‘challenging’ client styles. I think it’s really important to have total respect and empathy, compassion and unconditional positive regard towards our clients. But one of the longest hours that I’ve had to spend in my practice over the 30 years is with clients that I call the ‘Skeptic’ or the ‘Confounder’.
And this can be sometimes, not always, it sometimes can be just someone that just likes to kind of go up against you in terms of maybe trying to disprove astrology. Sometimes it’s also the husband or even the wife, but usually it’s a husband that gets kind of dragged into the astrological session. His wife says, “This is a great thing for you to do,” and maybe he has very little or no interest in astrology, so that can be a challenge. And also, sometimes a client is given a gift, again, of an astrological consultation and they’re not really open to astrology, so that’s one aspect.
I do feel–and Chakrapani taught me this and it may be a little extreme, although Carl Jung said the same thing. He said that whether you’re a psychotherapist, counselor, or an astrologer, the client should treat you with respect, and of course that respect should be reciprocal, as I mentioned. But if a client’s disrespectful to you, again, it’s only happened to me a few times in 30 years, but it’s good to maybe just to stop the session or just to say, “I feel like I can’t be of help to you.” So I know this is very rare, but again, I think it’s important to realize the importance of mutual respect between the astrologer and the client.
DH: So that’s one type.
CB: And that’s really funny that you mentioned the consultation because I remember distinctly you warning that those tend to be the consultations that don’t go as well, the ones that are often given as a gift. Because even though the intention is positive, typically on the person who’s giving it to somebody that they love–like a loved one or a friend–as a gift, the person, if they’re really not into astrology or don’t think highly of it or don’t want to do it, that’s going to really raise the odds of the consulting session not going terribly well. Even if you are actually saying things that are correct in some ways, the person may not be open to receiving it or may not be able to see it.
DH: Correct. And I had a client once I remember at a conference back in Chicago that came in. And my way is just doing more of a dialogue to start out with and asking them what areas, and he just looked at me and he said, “No, I do not want you to know anything about me. I just want you to read the chart and tell me what you see. and I don’t want to give you any input.”
DH: So it was kind of this really–I mean, that was probably the longest hour of my life or one of the longest, so that was a tough, tough hour. And I probably should have said, “This isn’t working out. This is not my style. Here’s someone that I would recommend that does more of an informational style for you.”
DH: But I went ahead and went along with it because I’m a nice guy, and I’m a very compassionate person. But again, if I had it to do over again, I think I would have just stopped the session.
CB: And that’s tough because there’s an issue there. Occasionally, you’ll hear this story, it’s almost like a cliche story of the astrologer who was a skeptic, but then something happened and they were exposed to the subject or had some sort of revelatory experience with astrology and suddenly started a lifelong career as an astrologer. I feel like I’ve run into a number of astrologers with that story, and so you never know if you are gonna be that one consultation where somebody has that experience.
And on the one hand, it’s annoying and more frustrating and probably less productive overall for you to have to just show off whatever you can do with astrology for this person in order to convince them that there’s something to it, but on the other hand, maybe that can be like that one experience where you do change somebody’s mind; but yeah, I guess it could go either way.
DH: Yeah, and I think, again, the keyword there would be ‘respect’. Like I said, 30 years I’ve been practicing, I’ve probably stopped a few sessions over that time. But I think it’s just important to just be aware of that because it may kind of fluster the astrologer a bit, maybe take them back a bit, and just to note that you will get clients like this. And again, just do the best you can, and try to create a good dialogue with them I think can be really helpful.
CB: Definitely. All right, that makes sense. And backing up, the first one that you listed in the article was the ‘Professional’, and I was wondering if we could get into that client style a little bit more deeply.
DH: Yeah, this sometimes can be kind of what we were saying about dependency, where they go and see an astrologer maybe once every couple of months and they try out different astrologers, which is fine and everything. But in Sedona particularly, every other person is an astrologer or psychic or mystic. I mean, my manicurist does palm readings, for example, and the mechanic, the auto mechanic, is a psychic. As I like to call him, he’s a ‘karma mechanic’.
But sometimes, again, clients see a number of astrologers. I remember one client came in to me, and she gave me the cassette tape and wanted me to listen to it before our session of sessions she had done with Rob Hand, Zip Dobyns, these different astrologers. And she had kind of piecemeal 20 minutes with each of these astrologers and wanted me to listen to it, so she was kind of what I consider a ‘professional’ client.
And the problem with this kind of dependency is sometimes it can interfere with the person exerting their own will, because, again, it can get into a little bit of a fatalistic idea. And then maybe shopping around to try to get on the astrologer to say what they want to hear, so there can be that aspect to it. But again, sometimes I just call this the professional client.
CB: Or sometimes maybe giving you too much power, or asking the diviner or the astrologer to make their choices for them.
DH: Correct, correct.
CB: Okay, and maybe if we could flip this around. So the ideal scenario then, if that’s the less-than-ideal scenario, is trying to encourage that person to become more self-actualized and to sort of take charge of their own life in order to not have to rely on an astrologer or something in order to make their own choices; maybe helping to wean them off of that or helping to show them that maybe they’re abusing that, or it’s become unhealthy for them rather than something that’s helpful.
DH: Yeah, I mean, again, you don’t necessarily have to use words, but as I like to say, helping them to take an active role in their healing process rather than just being a passive recipient of a cure would be the way I would word it. So again, it’s helping the client to take discriminative action, but sometimes I’ll say to the client, “You know your life better than I. I’m seeing these different patterns, and I want to share with you.” And I kind of consider myself kind of a timing coach using the transits, and in Vedic astrology the dashas and other ‘forecasting’ techniques. But at the end of the day, yeah, I think it’s important to empower the client towards their own free will, their own choice.
CB: Okay. And even though, in the more psychotherapeutic approach, there might be situations where you would want to have like an ongoing or a regular discussion relationship with the client where you’re seeing them and you’re combining astrology with therapeutic counseling, it seems like this is a scenario where in some instances you might actually want to discourage the person from maybe seeing astrologers as much if they’re developing an unhealthy dependence on astrology.
DH: I think so. And I can’t remember the exact quotes, but that was one of the shadow sides he saw with astrology. Of course, it was his opinion, but he would use it a little bit more as a diagnostic tool. And then he was such an archetypal psychologist that, again, he would see the planetary archetypes and different things that could help the client to discover what archetypal stories–or I like to call them ‘sacred stories’ rather than myths–that may speak to the client and help them in their healing process.
CB: Okay, great. All right, so that’s the first consulting style or potentially challenging client style. The second was the Skeptic or the Confounder, and then the third one that you have listed is the ‘Agreeable Client’ or the overly-agreeable client.
DH: Yeah, this is quite often a client that just agrees with everything you say. And then the problem with that type of client is that of course you could be wrong with what you’re saying, so the importance again of staying humble and realizing your fallibility. And then quite often with that type of client, there can be an issue where they see you, again, as this godlike or goddess-like figure in their life, like the Oracle at Delphi where you know all and see all.
And the problem with that is if you get a client which is probably one of the most difficult clients to deal with–what’s called borderline personality disorder. And again, this is rare in practice, but if you can’t spot a person with this kind of disorder or this challenge–I like to use the word ‘challenge’ more than ‘disorder’–it can really, really create havoc for you.
So a borderline client, what they can do is often see you as this perfect, kind of godlike figure. And then when some of your ‘forecasts’ don’t come to bear, or if you happen to say something that creates a narcissistic kind of wound for them, any kind of critique, then rather than God, you become Godzilla.
DH: So it’s kind of what’s called black-and-white thinking or splitting where you’re either all-good or you’re bad. And so, sometimes with a client like this, they can really turn on you, and I’ve had this happen several times over these three decades; and again, it’s a really difficult situation to find yourself in as an astrologer, even as a counselor.
CB: Sure. So swinging towards extremes of either overly-idealizing you as being infallible or godlike versus swinging to the opposite extreme of thinking that you’re like the devil or something like that.
DH: Correct. And sometimes we see this played out in politics. And we won’t get too political here, but just to say sometimes people in high positions of power politically can see their people as for them or against them. There’s no gray. It’s either black or white. And so, when you see someone doing this, it’s kind of a real primitive defense mechanism that, again, can be a real challenge if you’re not aware of a client that may be doing this kind of defense mechanism of splitting.
CB: Sure. And that’s really interesting, you mentioning borderline personality disorder. It just brings up the point that psychotherapy and counseling, this is a whole field that people go to school on and specialize in, and there’s so many nuances and details. And when an astrologer just starts to read charts–even though from an astrologer’s perspective they’re often approaching it as an almost purely technical art in terms of their ability to look at this chart and then make statements about a person’s life that are true–when you start doing that for clients it really does put you into a counseling dynamic, and it raises all sorts of things that you may not be aware of or have any training in that are things that you’re gonna have to start dealing with.
CB: Okay. So therein lies the importance of the emphasis that you are raising at the beginning in terms of getting some of those skills in counseling or consulting and psychology. I mean, at the very–not lowest scenario, but at the very least maybe doing some of these consulting training skills within the astrological community; best-case scenario actually getting some training as either a psychotherapist or as a counselor.
DH: Correct. Yeah, I think it’s just prudent and wise to do that. And it kind of covers yourself too in terms of, again, getting yourself in over your head.
CB: Sure. Okay, so that’s the third challenging client style. The fourth one you’d call the ‘Confessional’. And what is that?
DH: Sometimes a client–again, this is part and parcel of being a therapist or an astrologer–will sometimes treat you as kind of a priest or a priestess, or how would we say, kind of a ‘father confessor’ or a ‘mother confessor’ where they want to share with them where they really feel like they’ve missed the mark and where they’ve made mistakes in their life and aspects like this. So again, I think it’s good to hear those things out without judgment, without laying any kind of shame or guilt on the client, even if your own sense of ethics and morality may not match what the client is saying to you. I’ll give you an example.
I had a couple come to me once, and they wanted me to do the compatibility between the two of them, and they were both married to different people. And of course, they were having an affair and their partners were not aware of this. So it really put me in a tricky situation here, because I think at the end of the day, if we can be honest with our partner no matter what we choose to do–if we’re polyamorous or whatever–it’s fine.
But when you’re leaving someone in the dark, I think there’s an ethical issue there, but that’s just my own sense of ethics. And so, I tried to just stay with the synastry between them, tried not to pass judgment or whatever. But it was really strange, I saw them at a hotel where I was putting on a conference. And I saw them the next day and someone in the parking lot had stolen their car that night, so they were left without a car, and I thought that was really strange karma to have that happen.
But again, I think we have to be careful with this, to not put our own judgments, our own belief systems onto a client, so it’s kind of a tricky area. But I think there’s a positive side to this whole confessional aspect too where the client may really feel relieved to be able to talk to someone about these issues. And sometimes I’ve had clients tell me that they felt more comfortable sharing their challenges and their difficulties with an astrologer versus even their psychotherapists because they thought it was more of a one-time, a one-time session. So they may have been able to let go of some guilt and shame around an issue that they ultimately maybe would help heal in their psychotherapy counseling.
CB: Right. I mean, I think I’ve seen some articles about that, of people speculating that astrology and similar things have almost become like a folk-type of counseling–or counseling for people that don’t realize that they need or want counseling–that by going and just talking to an astrologer or somebody and using that sort of dynamic is something that’s helpful or useful for them in that way, without necessarily realizing that that’s part of what they’re doing.
DH: Yeah, and they may never go in-depth into healing some of these issues. They may just kind of, how would you say, skirt around the issue. I think this is where it’s really tricky for me as a counseling astrologer, to also not condone behavior that’s really, how would you say, challenging, or is going to create some problems down the road for a client.
So I think we have to be careful also to be a fair witness. But also like I said, sometimes a client will come to you because they want you to say a certain thing, that it’s okay–for example, it’s okay to have an affair or whatever–but again not to be judgmental. It’s just that 9 times out of 10 that kind of behavior can create some problems unless everybody’s on board and everybody agrees to that.
CB: Sure. So on the one hand, the astrologer needing to be careful not to sort of project their own morality or other things or become judgmental or negative towards the client, but on the other hand, if the client is seeking approval or absolution for something that might not be a healthy dynamic that they’re living out that’s not necessarily the astrologer’s job, or the onus is not necessarily on you to give that or to play that role.
DH: Yeah, it’s what I call ‘sugarcoating’ a session too, where rather than the ‘agreeable client’, you’re the ‘agreeable astrologer’.
DH: You just agree and go along with things. So it’s tricky. It’s kind of a sticky wicket, I think.
CB: I mean, how does that come up though when it comes to negative things? That seems like one of the most challenging things for me is that there might be a situation where some clients don’t want to or are not capable of hearing more challenging or more negative things. And in terms of being the agreeable astrologer, where does the astrologer fall in terms of wanting to say things and put a constructive spin on things, but also sometimes acknowledge challenges or difficulties or hardships? It seems like the line between those is sometimes kind of blurry.
DH: Yeah, and the other thing is you have to–which is again challenging in an hour-and-a-half session–you have to try to assess what may be helpful, what may be therapeutic in the session. And sometimes you could be totally right about something you’ve seen in the chart, but the client, as you’re saying, may not be capable or ready to hear that ‘truth’. And so, again, it can create sometimes havoc for the client to press in too much to some of the challenges, but I like to use the word ‘challenges’, and I try to reframe the challenges into a positive aspect for them.
So for example, maybe they are running let’s just say a difficult Saturn transit; Saturn’s going over the Moon. And quite often in Vedic astrology, we call this Sade Sati; it’s when Saturn goes over the Moon. I know one of our students at Kepler–I don’t know if you did this process–but I had them talk about the last time they had Sade Sati and any experiences that went on particularly when Saturn was going right over the Moon. And 9 out of 10, of the students, it wasn’t a cakewalk.
CH: So to not sugarcoat that, but again, to give some kind of sense that it can be a great time for detachment, for spiritual growth, to develop more of a fair witness kind of consciousness; or to help them to put their life in order more. Sometimes Saturn gets the shadow projected onto it quite often, and yet, with these Saturn transits as we know whatever we ‘fear’, whatever the challenge we have, if we’re able to work through it becomes sometimes our greatest ally. So I try to reframe things in a more positive light, but also at the same time, I don’t want to cheerlead a client off the cliff either.
DH: So it’s, again, that kind of balance that happens I think with a good astrologer. And I think the only way–besides getting counseling training and these kinds of things–is just by being in the trenches with clients. You start to really develop more empathy and more of a skill set in order to reframe and put even the most challenging aspects into some positive light or some ability to go through it. Because I think at the end of the day, you always want to leave a client with a sense of faith and optimism and hope.
CB: Sure. And it seems like part of the point there, or one of the points you made in the article is that sometimes or most of the time, it’s more important to be helpful or to be healing rather than just to be right, or being right is not always paramount necessarily as an astrologer. Even though, obviously, we strive for and you want to be accurate in your statements as an astrologer, sometimes just because you can say something doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.
DH: Yeah, it’s that right timing aspect. And again, if you’re having an ongoing counseling relationship with the client then you don’t have to unload everything you see in one session. I think it’s something that we need to be prudent about, even if we are just seeing a client of course for one session.
CB: Sure. And it seems like that’s something that astrologers learn how to do or learn how to assess pretty quickly on a client-by-client basis. Because there might be some area or something you would say to one client and they would be perfectly fine in receiving that information versus another where you could say something similar or make a similar statement in a certain area of life where that might be actually really harmful or hard for them to hear in some way. So it almost becomes an assessment you have to make on a client-by-client basis it seems, right?
DH: Correct. For example, if you get a client that’s really depressed, again, I think it’s always good to lean on the side of focusing on the positive strengths in the astrological chart and in this session, so to build on the strengths rather than pointing out the challenges right away. So it’s good to, again, accentuate I think the positive.
CB: Sure. So that actually leads us to the fifth counseling dynamic or challenging dynamic that can sometimes come up with clients, which is the sort of ‘Rescue Me’ type client, I think that’s what you called it.
DH: Yeah, it can be a client that maybe is looking for you to have the magic pill that’s gonna make their life better, or you have a kind of a magic wand, as I put it, to make everything fine. And sometimes with this client, again, because they’re wanting you to rescue them and to help them–which is a great quality to have–but sometimes as astrologers, we have a tendency to be kind of codependent; and sometimes we can so much want to give to a client that we can get depleted in the process.
So sometimes with a Rescue Me client, after the session, you may feel really depleted, feel like the energy is just kind of almost sucked out of you. So again, I think we need to always with the Rescue Me client try to put the energy back into them or the power back into their hands in terms of making the changes that they need to make in their life, so things can move more slowly and move in a good, healthy developmental way.
CB: Sure. And that seems a blend of some of the others as well in terms of the astrologer not necessarily projecting that they’re infallible or acknowledging the limitations or being realistic about what astrology can do, and that the astrologer can’t necessarily just wave a magic wand and make everything better or make it perfect in a person’s life.
DH: Yeah. And as Freud said, the two things that clients come to you with are to work and to love. And so, sometimes with a Rescue Me client, they want to know when they’re gonna meet Prince Charming or the Princess, and also lucky numbers in the lottery and all kinds of things, so that somehow magically their life’s going to be better financially or in terms of relationship or career. But again, I think you want to emphasize where you see different transits, for example, or different dashas or sub-cycles–they’re called bhuktis in Vedic astrology–where the person may be able to really ‘meet someone’ or connect up with their dharma in terms of their career.
But one of the challenges, let’s just say, if Jupiter’s transiting through the 7th house, and you may say to the client, “There’s a good chance of meeting someone during this time of this Jupiter transit,” and then sure enough they meet a really great person that matches their picture, and they end up getting married. And then a year or two later–because of just the challenges let’s just say in the synastry between the charts or other aspects that are going on–not necessarily astrologically, but just terms of the partner they chose–they go through a divorce. And so, again, I think we have to be a little bit prudent in terms of just wanting to rescue clients or waving the magic wand that’s gonna make everything okay.
CB: Right. That’s really challenging in terms of when they’re wanting or hoping or looking forward to something and looking for you for confirmation of that. And sometimes it seems like an issue that the astrologer can run into that can be difficult is being influenced by what the client wants and needing to be careful when you’re looking at some transit or some activation in the future that’s coming up and maybe not being overly-influenced. There’s a transference of almost like they’re wanting that thing and you look for it in the transits and sort of see something that looks moderately-positive but maybe taking it to be overly-positive than it actually will be.
DH: Yeah, I think, again, it’s just a thing to be able to look at and recognize. And like I said, as therapists or astrologers, we have such a desire, a strong desire–which is a wonderful thing–to help people. But sometimes, as I said, we have to be careful not to cheerlead someone off a cliff.
CB: Sure, sure. All right, and then finally the last challenging client style that you list was the ‘Victim’. What is that?
DH: That is, again, a client that may feel they’re maybe being punished by God, and so they get into playing kind of a victim role to life. And again, granted, there are victims, and we see it every day in terms of people that are abused or whatever kind of victimization, so I don’t mean to downplay this. But I think at the same time, I want to encourage them, again, as I mentioned earlier, to be an active participant in their healing process; so kind of helping them to get out of kind of ‘victim consciousness’ that at the end of the day doesn’t really serve that much.
Sometimes, and again, I have to be really careful how I word this, but sometimes behind someone that’s a victim ‘playing victim’–and this is more when they’re playing victim–there can be a persecutor. So rather than seeing where they may be inflicting challenges or pain on someone else, it’s easier for them to play the role of them feeling victimized. There’s a technique, how would you say, a psychological term called ‘projective identification’. Let’s just say someone has a lot of anger in them, they may try to invoke the anger in you so that the anger is outside of themselves, so they don’t have to do with their own internal anger and then it’s placed outside of themselves.
And so, again, I think just helping a person to take an active role in the healing process, as I mentioned, is an essential kind of quality that we have. We’re kind of like a motivational coach really. And again, I would use, for most of us, spiritual life coach as a model that may feel comfortable for a lot of astrologers.
CB: Right. It’s so interesting the number of different fields that you end up having to take and develop some ability or some specialization in that get incorporated into being a practicing or a consulting astrologer. Because you’ve already named like at least five or six different fields where there’s different things that you need to sort of draw on or have some familiarity with in order to be sort of a really effective astrological consultant.
DH: Yeah. And then it even gets into the whole field of medical psychology–medical astrology, excuse me, which again can be a slippery slope if you’re not a doctor. Again, we have to be careful not to prescribe illnesses and things like that. I think that’s, again, one of the challenging areas when you see something in the chart that may look like a health crisis coming and how to word that in a way that is giving the client a heads up, but not creating fear or worry, so it’s a delicate dance.
And again, sometimes I may just say, “Just really great this year.” Especially if a person of course is in their 50s or 60s, it’s probably prudent and wise anyway maybe to get a complete physical and things like that. Sometimes I’ll see in the charts dental problems, and I’ll just say, “It’s really great for you to see your dentist twice a year, and if any issues are there, fine. If not, no worries.”
But I just see things sometimes in the charts that show up, or maybe a woman client that has a really difficult chart for having children, you have to be really careful about that. Because sometimes I’ll ask the question before I even say anything, “What is your desire in terms of having children?” And if they say, “I have no desire to have children,” or whatever then I may say, “Well, it looks like in your chart that this may have been a little bit of a caution light in that area of your life, and you may have kind of circumvented a challenging kind of karma to take on in this lifetime.” And numerous women have said to me it relieved a lot of guilt that they felt about not having children.
And usually, I like to see things show up three or four times in the chart. This may be a little bit more fixed karma, Chris, when you see a signature showing up three or four times. But again, you have to be careful to make any kind of fatalistic predictions for women about children, but I kind of check things out a little bit more before sharing that information, if that makes sense.
CB: Yeah, I mean, that’s one of the things I actually enjoy much more on some levels sometimes about seeing clients that are older. So much of the major events in their life have already taken place, and you’re able to just have a discussion about the chart where they’re already fully aware of most of the major upsides and downsides in their life.
And some of those themes have already played themselves out, so that you can talk about it realistically without necessarily fear of something that’s still coming up down the line in the future, whereas when you’re talking to a younger client sometimes that can be more tricky both because you have less sort of retrospective things to talk about, but also because some aspects of their chart simply haven’t manifested yet. And so, there may be very prominent themes that are still sort of upcoming, but that they can’t necessarily relate to now.
DH: Correct. No, that’s important. I just had a couple of teenage clients in. And normally, I’m kind of careful unless they really want to see me in terms of teenagers, usually more if they’re like 18 or something like that. But again, I wouldn’t ever say to a client, as Chakrapani said to me, “You’ll be married twice.” I just wish he would have told me to wait. I was only about 24 at the time when he said that to me, but still it’s not my style to ever say that to a client, or to a woman client that she’s not gonna have children or things like that, I don’t go there.
I call it the ‘3 Ds’. I don’t like to predict death, divorce, or disease, because I think by doing that you’re, again, playing God in someone’s life. Again, I’ve seen sometimes where you even see maybe a client that has some difficult aspects where they actually may be leaving their body, and they go through some kind of death/rebirth experience, either physically and/or emotionally, mentally, spiritually. So I think we have to be careful about predicting death, and again, I could go into more detail on that.
One thing I would say is that there was a book written a number of years ago by Richard Houck called, The Astrology of Death. And I remember Michael Lutin talking to me at one of the conferences and he said, “Richard Houck sent me a copy of this book and wanted me to write an endorsement of it.” And he said, “I didn’t even need to read the book. I just told Richard, ‘This book scared the shit out of me.’”
CB: Was that his endorsement? That would be great on the back cover.
DH: Right. And kind of a sad part of that is Richard was asked how long he would live himself, and I think he said until he was like 79 or something; then a few years later, he died of cancer. To me, these things, particularly death, even though you may see it in the chart or anything like that, again, it’s just an area that my teachers from India just said it’s better to not predict death or disease for that matter.
CB: Okay. Yeah, I used his chart as an example at one point because he has the ruler of the Ascendant tropically in the 8th house, which I always thought was really fascinating that he ended up writing that book and then everything that happened with that afterwards. So that actually brought up, or just to go back a couple of steps with older versus younger clients, where do you draw the line in terms of age? I know some astrologers won’t see clients below a certain age, or sometimes you have the third-party chart issue of a parent wanting to bring a child’s chart. Where do you fall in terms of that? Are you okay with that or do you have any issues with that?
DH: It’s fraught with a lot of difficulty, I think. I would say, all things being equal, probably better to wait until they’re a teenager, say, 16 to 18, something like that in terms of doing an initial session. And even with that, I usually just do a half-hour, and I’ll tend to focus on positive things that I’m seeing in the chart, the strengths that I’m seeing in the chart. So I think it’s, again, a real challenge to do that.
And then you get into a whole issue about third-party things. And again, a lot of times clients that you’ve seen for a number of years want you to look at their infant’s chart, and I think it’s just a kind of a precarious situation. So I’ve done it in the past, and I’ve always felt like this is an area where the ethics are a little gray. But again, I would tend to just look at the chart, and if I see really pronounced Venus, for example, I’ll say, “I think it’s good for the child to go to a school that emphasizes the arts.” Maybe it could be like Waldorf or Montessori, or even if it’s public school, but the school really has a lot of emphasis on music, dance, drama, theater, art, things like that.
So I may see that in the chart and point that out. But again, I tend to steer clear of making any kind of even challenging forecasts or any of that kind of thing with children’s charts. So I don’t know if that answers your question, but I think it’s a really, really good question and something that as astrologers we need to kind of grapple with and to be careful.
CB: Yeah, there’s some things when you read the different ethical guidelines that certainly come up, and it’s clear that there were some debates around what’s appropriate to practice versus what’s not. And third-party charts is one of those ones that always raises some interesting debates about whether it’s okay for an astrologer to read a chart of somebody that’s not in the consulting room with them right at that time, like if somebody brings in a potential love interest’s chart, or if a parent brings in a child’s chart, or other things like that. And the ethical guidelines for ISAR I think actually say that you’re not actually allowed to do that, right?
DH: Correct. No, that’s correct. I think that’s the safe way to play it. Sometimes with clients, I have asked the question, do I have permission to look at this person’s chart, but even there that can be a slippery slope because of whether they’re actually telling you the truth, and that’s another question. But at the end of the day, I just think it’s cleaner just to have the person that you’re looking at the chart for to be present. There are situational ethics sometimes that get into play here. So someone’s abusive to their partner, how do you deal with that and things like that? But at the end of the day, I think it’s just cleaner probably to not do third-party charts.
CB: Sure, sure. And finally, it seems like sometimes establishing proper boundaries with clients can be an issue that astrologers have to learn once they get into it. Is that something that you’ve had to develop a sense of, about how to establish proper boundaries?
DH: I think, again, it’s probably cleaner, if possible. It’s tough because sometimes clients come to you that are your close friends, so I think it is a gray area. Again, like with psychotherapy, it’s probably better to just keep a professional relationship, if possible. I just think it’s cleaner and probably more professional to do that, but again, there’s always situational ethics that come into play, like, for example, friends or things like that that want you to look at their chart. I mean, you’re not gonna just diss them as friends.
DH: Of course, you could refer him to another astrologer or whatever. But at the end of the day, again, I think this is kind of a gray area. Probably good though, if possible, just to keep healthy boundaries.
CB: Sure. And sometimes that can come up in even post-consultation follow-up. I know that sometimes usually there’s some follow-up after a consultation, or even maybe the person says that they had a major question they meant to ask but they forgot and they want to ask you a follow-up question. And I think usually astrologers are relatively okay with that within limits, but then sometimes there might be somebody who pushes that boundary and maybe tries to ask like 20 questions and having to sometimes be firm about saying this is really something that would take enough time that’s going to require a separate consultation, and it’s not something I can address now. Is that something you’ve dealt with a little bit? Where do you come down on stuff like that?
DH: Well, actually one of the challenges is when you have clients invite the astrologer to dinner. So then literally, along with dessert, they want to pick your brain, and so, again, I tend to steer clear of that. But one of the things that I do encourage to an extent is, sometimes if it’s appropriate, if I feel right, I’ll just say, “Email me down the road an update of how you’re doing.” And it’s just kind of a way for me to reach out to them, but leave it in their court in terms of if they want to contact me in terms of further contact.
DH: But again, if it becomes a lot of questions and things like that, then sometimes I’ll even just schedule like a half-hour update, things like that.
CB: Okay, got it. One of the points you made earlier is that book learning has its limits, and you can learn a lot about astrology from books, obviously, and that’s always gonna be our primary resource in addition to our teachers. But there’s something about actually doing consultations where there’s so much of this that you don’t learn until you’re actually in the trenches and then there’s things that you have to pick up and learn as you go. So in terms of getting started doing consultations, do you have any advice if somebody was just getting started on how you know when you’re ready to start seeing clients?
DH: Well, I think one way is to get some certification. It’s probably a safe way to do it, whether it’s through ISAR or through American College of Vedic Astrology or the Council of Vedic Astrology, or some of the other organizations. NCGR. OPA. To get some basic certification I think is a smart way to go. But once you’ve done that, once you’ve got that foundation, Chakrapani said to me–he often said to me, “Just do charts.”
So again, that’s a big question, like when do you actually start? And for some people, I think it is a situational thing where some people are just so gifted at it that they may be able to start more readily seeing clients sooner, and some people, it may take them several years to feel that. But I think at the end of the day, you can also wait forever.
DH: And it’s just, like you said, ultimately, you have to get into the trenches and experience things. Again, stay humble. Sometimes I recommend to young astrologers–not necessarily young by age, but astrologers that are just starting their practice–to maybe charge more of a minimal amount of money or do a sliding-scale fee or something like that maybe to start out to build their practice. So these are just some of the things that I would say.
CB: Yeah, there’s something about even just a minimal exchange, even if it’s like $5 or $20. But starting to exchange your time as an astrologer and the knowledge you have–even if it’s just a little bit of knowledge in exchange for some small monetary exchange–that it is important.
And you don’t want to get stuck in the role of the perpetual student if you ever do want to become a professional astrologer. Because astrologers often have this misconception that you’ll reach a certain point and then you’ll know everything that there is to know about astrology and that’s the point at which you’ll start seeing clients. But one of the things that more established astrologers realize is that no astrologer ever stops learning. Even the most experienced astrologers who have been doing it for many decades still kind of learn new things every time they see a client, right? Would that be true from your experience?
DH: Correct. And that’s, to me, again, through direct experience. My clients have been my greatest teachers; not to put down my teachers of course, they’re huge. But you’ve seen you know hundreds of clients, thousands of clients, I mean, they’re the ones that are really teaching you to hone your skills and hone your craft.
CB: Right. And I think that’s the reason why at some point it’s good, once you have some sort of basis or some sort of education or training, just to start doing it, even if you’re doing it for free or what have you, but to start getting that experience, because that’s how you’ll really learn and grow as an astrologer eventually.
DH: Yeah, I think it’s important, as you were saying. I think there should be some exchange of energy, whether it’s money or some service or some kind of bartering, although bartering can have its challenges. But there should be some kind of exchange of energy in a way that also the client is respecting the astrologer and respecting their work and realizing that it is a value.
CB: Right, that’s perfect. Yeah, that really goes back to that original point about respect. And that seems like such a bigger component, and I’m so glad you brought that up, because in India, it seems like astrologer is a respected profession, and it’s so much more respected than in the West. That’s such a different mindset, but there’s something valuable about that I think that you’re bringing in a little bit by emphasizing that component to some extent. Not in going too far and like treating the astrologer as godlike or infallible, but still having some fundamental respect for astrology as a sort of profession and as a valuable tool that the client is seeking to partake from in having a consultation with an astrologer.
DH: Yeah. And I’ve just seen over these last three decades just so much more respect for this as a profession.
DH: So it’s been great to see just the level of, again, ethics and integrity and all that. It’s just grown I think leaps and bounds over the course of time. And I would say too that one of the other things–and we just met at UAC of course in Chicago–I think one of the other things that I would recommend to budding astrologers is to go to conferences, to really immerse yourself. Like you said, there’s always things to be learning, always ways to grow. And sometimes the greatest information happens in the bar, of people just sharing things. And just that interaction with your peers, to me, is just huge.
CB: Yeah, that’s part of being a professional and connecting with other professionals and doing sort of continuing education as well and continuing to be exposed to what’s going on in the community, and sometimes new ideas or learning new things yourself, but also making some of those professional connections and exchanging knowledge and information and even just anecdotes like this.
Like some of the anecdotes you shared with us about different consultations you’ve had and dynamics, I mean, that’s really valuable information that for you is like a lived wisdom and experience. But in sharing that with somebody, even in passing as an anecdote actually has tangible value, and sometimes that’s a lot of what happens at conferences.
DH: Yeah, it’s really wonderful. Just to be with your sangha, be with your community, I think is huge. Because we can as astrologers tend to isolate sometimes, and I think it’s important to keep dialogue going, like you were saying. Nice to have–like we were doing in San Francisco, and OPA does that–pure group supervision. I think it’s really a great way to hone your skills and to have one of your mentors to actually listen to one of your sessions–of course, you’d have to ask the client permission–and for them to give you feedback on, again, your astrological skills, as well as your counseling skills.
CB: Sure, definitely. And since we’re getting towards the end of this, we mentioned conferences. And I’m actually excited that you’re doing a conference later this year in Sedona, in November, right?
DH: Right. It’s the Sedona Vedic Astrology Conference, and it’s November 30 to December 3rd in Sedona, Arizona, which is a couple hours north of Phoenix. And Sedona, for those of you who don’t know, is a very mystical place. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The Native American Indians treated it as their temple because there’s these incredible spires of red rocks. You’ve been here, so it’s just a power spot on the planet.
And we have over 25 faculty, and there’s beginner-intermediate-advanced classes. We have all-day intensives, a number of people: Joni Patry, and Komilla Sutton, and Sam Geppi, and Jeffrey Armstrong, Andrew Foss; also, Eve and Dr. Pai. Eve and Dr. Pai are going to do an all-day intensive on the nakshatras, so it’s just a variety of different classes.
And we have a room this year devoted to yoga and meditation, so if people need to kind of chill out and do some yoga or meditate and kind of take a break from all the mental energy of learning astrology that’s available as well. So anyway, hopefully, you can come. We’d love to see you there, Chris. And the website is just SedonaVedicAstrology.com.
CB: Okay, brilliant. Yeah, I’m actually thinking about maybe going out there to see some lectures because, one, there’s still so much that Western astrologers can learn, especially Western astrologers like myself that are into traditional astrology can learn from the practice of Vedic astrology. Because there’s so many currents in Vedic astrology still that are things that used to be practiced in the West 2,000 years ago in the Hellenistic tradition, but were lost.
And there are still active and live traditions in Vedic astrology today, even things very simple like using whole sign houses, but also more advanced things like the dasha systems, which are often used very similarly to the time-lord systems. And I’m sure there will be some talks on dashas at the conference, right?
DH: Correct. Yeah, I think Joni Patry’s doing an all-day intensive on how to interpret the birth chart, but she primarily focuses a lot on dashas and transits as well. And again, going back full-circle to when I met you, you remember so well how there was so much overlap and cross-pollination that went on with the Hellenistic world and the Vedic astrology world. To me, there was just such fascination in terms of how there was this confluence between the two systems and that interplay between the two cultures.
CB: Right, definitely. And that’s the most fascinating thing because we’re just recovering Hellenistic astrology through translating texts, but we only have so many texts, and the texts are sometimes very cryptic or very brief. And sometimes you can see that Vedic astrologers are still continuing many of those practices today and have expanded upon them in very interesting and useful ways, so that’s definitely one of the reasons why I’m interested and thinking about attending, in addition to doing some interviews.
One of the things I loved about your conference last year–because you did the same conference last year–is you seem very conscious of what’s going on in the astrological community. And I noticed that you drew on some of the astrologers that are doing Vedic astrology on YouTube that are becoming very prominent. You seem to be paying attention and invited them to speak at your conference, which I really appreciated because you’re actually doing outreach to some of the newer and upcoming generations of astrologers who are developing this following independent of the astrological community, but aren’t really necessarily integrated into it. They’re not speaking at major astrology conferences and things like that, but you seem to be trying to make some inroads with some of those people it seems, right?
DH: Yeah, I really try to have about a third of the faculty be fresh and new, and a number of them are younger astrologers. Younger astrologers, let’s just say astrologers below the age of 40, have so much more fresh energy that they’re bringing to the table. And some of us older guys, we kind of get stuck in our patterns, especially if we have a lot of fixed signs in our charts. So I think, again, there’s that mutability with younger astrologers and that freshness in being able to see things from a different point of view, a different light, and connecting up the dots; finding the unity in the diversity and learning more than one astrological language.
The famous psychologist, Abraham Maslow, one of the founders of humanistic psychology, said, “When your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” So the idea, to be bilingual or trilingual in astrology, to me, is a great gift. And a lot of our astrologers or a lot of our faculty, excuse me, are neo-Vedic astrologers–what I call them–like myself. I use the outer planets. Even the asteroids, to me, are fascinating.
So I think we need to realize that the spirit of the Vedas was to be open to all forms of truth. And I think that’s one of the shadow sides of Vedic astrology is sometimes it can just get locked so much into the ancient knowledge that it doesn’t allow for new, fresh energy. And I guess that could be a challenge of course with Hellenistic astrology, or any form of astrology for that matter, to be open to new ideas and fresh perspectives.
CB: Sure. Yeah, it’s that balance. Any focus on older traditional forms of astrology, there can be that tendency to solidifying and staying sort of stuck in the past or stuck in certain trends versus the opposite extreme of the extreme, new astrology where you have no reverence for tradition or no foundation but things are always changing and are always different. Yeah, it seems like it’s best to adopt some sort of approach between those two extremes.
DH: Yeah. And I like what Joseph Campbell, the famous cross-cultural mythologist, said too. He said just because something’s ancient doesn’t mean it’s better. So I think we have to be a little careful too with, how would you say, glorifying ancient knowledge, even though I love the ancient stuff. It’s like, give me the old-time religion, give me the old-time stuff. I just find it so fascinating, but again, to not get locked into it.
And again, that’s where, to me, the counseling skills and the consulting and psychotherapy and all these things bring in this fresh, new energy and perspectives on how to deliver the information so that it will be empowering rather than imprisoning.
CB: Definitely, that makes sense. Well, I think that’s a great point to wrap up on. So your website is DennisHarness.com. And what was the website for the conference again?
DH: It’s SedonaVedicAstrology.com.
CB: Excellent. All right, well, people should check that out, and I’ll put a link in the description for this episode as well. But yeah, thanks a lot for joining me today for this.
DH: Oh, great, Chris, it was wonderful. Yeah, it was great to connect again.
CB: Awesome. All right, well, thank you everyone for listening. Make sure to check out Dennis’ websites, and I will see you next time.