The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 204, titled:
Teaching Western Astrology in Modern China
With Chris Brennan and guest David Railey
Episode originally released on May 6, 2019
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 2, 2019
Copyright © 2019 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. Today is Friday, April 26, 2019, starting at 7:28 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 204th episode of the show. Joining me today is David Railey, and we’re going to be talking about the practice of modern Western astrology in modern China today. Hey, David, thanks for joining me.
DAVID RAILEY: Chris, I’ve been looking forward to this since UAC.
CB: Yeah, this is your first time in an individual interview with me on the podcast. But you actually appeared in a previous podcast episode when I recorded and released the recording of the ISAR panel from UAC last year.
DR: That’s right.
CB: Yeah, so this is technically your second appearance on the show, but thanks for joining me today.
DR: And thank you for doing that recording at UAC. That was above and beyond the call of duty, definitely.
CB: Yeah, well, I appreciated that you organized that panel because it was an important discussion topic in the wake of the 2016 elections when the community was processing what happened and figuring out how to go forward from there, so I appreciated you heading up that discussion. But you’re actually in town because you’re organizing. You’re the vice president of the International Society for Astrological Research, right?
DR: That’s correct.
CB: And you guys are in town planning a conference for next year, for September of 2020?
DR: That’s correct.
CB: OK. I’m excited about that. That’s going to be Denver, and it’s going to have something like 600 people. So it’s probably going to be the biggest conference of next year, right?
DR: Yes, we hope 600, maybe 700.
CB: Yeah, NORWAC, the Northwest Astrological Conference, sold out for the first time ever this year. So I think astrology’s really surged in popularity over the past few years, and there’s a whole new generation of Pluto in Sagittarius people coming into the field at this time. So who knows, maybe next year’s ISAR conference will sell out as well.
DR: We certain hope so. We were talking a little bit today about the Pluto in Sagittarius generation and the contribution we hope they’ll make to the field.
CB: OK. So our topic today, you’ve had a long career in astrology. You’re originally from Atlanta, right?
DR: That’s correct.
CB: OK. But you right now currently live in Beijing, China, and you actually teach at an astrology school there. You teach hundreds of students.
DR: This is also true.
CB: OK. And that’s going to be our main topic today, just the practice of astrology in modern China, because you have a really unique perspective on that. And while I did a previous episode on the development of astrology in China historically and some connections with the West through a transmission of certain texts in ancient times, we sort of ended that episode–I think it was Episode 181 with Jeffrey Kotyk–in modern times, when things started to change in the 20th century in terms of the practice of astrology in China. And so, I thought you’d be a good person to talk to since you’ve been actively involved over the past decade with teaching and bringing Western astrology to China for contemporary students.
DR: I would like to watch that podcast very much.
CB: Yeah, I’ll have to show it to you. I think you would enjoy it. Let’s see, so let’s start with some background information on you. So when did you start studying astrology?
DR: I was 19 years old. I was a journalism major in college, and some friends of mine who were serious students of astrology introduced me to it, and I was curious and it started there.
CB: OK. And that was 1970, you said?
DR: That’s right. Actually March 1970, and Uranus transit to my Mercury–kind of appropriate.
CB: Brilliant. I love that. Yeah, when I discovered astrology, it was a Uranus transit to my Ascendant, so somewhat similar. So things went pretty fast from that point though–it seems like when I was reading your biography–in terms of your studies. Where did you go from there? You started actually getting training or seeking out specific teachers to learn the subject?
DR: I had two mentors, Rosemary Jones who was a professional astrologer in Atlanta, and then Vicki Green who was a full-time, professional in Virginia Beach. And of course, I had influence from others in the field. Locally, Bil Tierney was a big influence on me.
CB: Oh, wow.
DR: He’s kind of a reclusive legend these days, but he was a great astrologer.
CB: Yeah, he wrote a widely popular book, Dynamics of Aspect Analysis, as well later in the 2000s, he wrote a great series on the outer planets. Yeah, I haven’t seen him ever speak at conferences anytime I’ve been in the community.
DR: No. I meet with him when I’m in Atlanta maybe once a year. So it started then and in some ways, the beginning of my study of astrology in 1970 coincided with the city ordinance being changed as a result of the change in the state law about astrology. When I started studying astrology, I didn’t know this had happened but there was this coincidence.
CB: So the law in the city changed against astrology where it made it harder to practice?
DR: What happened was the state law was declared unconstitutional because they had a prohibitive license fee prior to 1970. And astrology was lumped in with fortune-telling and everything else as is often the case. And it was a $5,000 license fee at that point. It’s a much greater sum than even today.
And so, there was a serious organization of astrologers in Atlanta at the time, and they met with the legislators at the state, they lobbied, they said this law needs to be changed and so forth. And once it was changed then all the cities and towns had to change their ordinances. Atlanta being the biggest city– the capital city of Georgia and biggest city in the Southeast–changed the ordinance, but they also met with the local astrologers. Maxine Taylor was a real pioneer in this. She’s got an interesting story to tell.
And astrology was defined legally as separate from fortune-telling. They set up requirements for being an astrologer which included passing a written examination, and also having a board of astrology examiners who would draw up the exam every year, administer the exam, and be there for the public to represent the field if there were any complaints–professional complaints or any kind of complaints in that field. So Atlanta was a pioneer city with astrology, and it was a great place to grow up with astrology, to learn astrology.
CB: Yeah, that sounds like both a success story in terms of astrologers fighting back against laws that were banning astrology unnecessarily or going to far in terms of trying to hamper its practice, and then it becomes a success story in terms of being one of the first instances of setting up professional certification.
CB: So it was literally setting up a certification board, and that still exists today, right?
DR: Yes, the law is still on the books. The exams that are recognized have been expanded, so the need for a board to draw up a separate exam every year no longer exists because other professional exams are recognized by the ordinance.
CB: So the ISAR, for example, certification, or NCGR certification.
DR: And AFA. All of those are recognized.
CB: Yeah, and those are the big three national organizations?
DR: Well, yeah.
CB: More or less.
DR: More or less, yeah.
CB: I’m trying to think of it. The only other major one, of course, is AFAN which you were on the board of a few years ago.
DR: Yeah, about four years.
CB: Great, so that’s all happening in the 1970s.
DR: And I’ll be completely frank about this, as I tell my students to encourage them. The first time I took the exam was in ’74. I failed it because back then you had to calculate everything by hand, and the chart you interpreted was the one you actually calculated by hand. I made some math errors with my formula. So even though my interpretation they said was pretty interesting for the chart that I came up with, it was not the right chart.
CB: Oh, no.
CB: It had the wrong Ascendant?
DR: It was like way off. And so, I had to wait a year to take it again. And I took it again in November ’75 and passed flying colors this time, and got my license from the city of Atlanta, January of ’76. My background was journalism, and I was still working. I was working for the Atlanta Journal. And in ’78, I was able to go cold turkey with astrology and not have any other source of income. Maybe by 1980, like a 10-year process, I felt more comfortable and secure as an astrologer at that point. So it took me 10 years from the beginning point till 1980 to get to that place, and that’s when Jeff and I opened The Daily Planets together.
CB: Right. That’s one of the things that’s really funny for people that know Jeff’s later history–Jeff Jawer’s later history and partnership eventually with Rick Levine–is that you guys actually were partnered up years earlier and did a lot of work together.
DR: Yes, I was his first wife, as we always used to say.
CB: OK. And what was The Daily Planet?
DR: The Daily Planets–plural so that we wouldn’t be confused with Superman and Clark Kent–was an astrology center in Little Five Points where Crystal Blue is today for those who are in Atlanta. And we were there for about four years, and Jeff also was a licensed astrologer. He took the exam for the city and so forth. And we had a lot of out-of-town astrologers come in that we would host and put on workshops, and it was a hub for the astrological community.
CB: That’s so interesting that it turned from something where astrology was literally being oppressed in that area, in that city, especially to something where it was flourishing through astrologers getting engaged and really trying to fight back against the law, but then also work with the local ordinances to set up something that would be amenable to having some oversight in the community.
DR: It was really about building relationships. Rather than seeing whether it’s a local government, or a state government, or a federal government as something to be afraid of or whatever, it’s really about building relationships. I know that’s a very Libra thing to say, but those astrologers who pioneered in the ’70s in Atlanta, that’s what they did. They went out there, they were just very open, and they built those relationships with–back then it wasn’t even the city council. It was called the Board of Aldermen. It was before they actually had a city council.
DR: And so, it serves as a model. Even though the model unfortunately has not been duplicated nationwide, we certainly hoped that it would be. If there’s any lesson from that I think it’s that you can do it, and it’s about being patient and building relationships.
CB: And you said Maxine Taylor was one of the main astrologers who was really influential in terms of heading that up?
DR: Yes, and my teacher, Rosemary Jones, and Louise Bromley, wow, and Rene Goodale who was also a big supporter of Project Hindsight. These were people who really worked hard to make that happen.
CB: Brilliant. Yeah, I’m trying to think of other cities. Las Vegas is one of the only other big cities that I can think of offhand that has a law like that where you have to get some sort of certification. I don’t know if you have to actually pass a test, but it’s almost like you have to pay a fee in order to practice in the city limits or something like that.
DR: I think there’s one other city in Ohio and maybe a couple of other places, but I haven’t kept up with it.
CB: And you practiced astrologer for years in Atlanta, and eventually, later in your career, you published a book in 2003, right?
DR: That’s correct.
CB: And that was a book primarily about the nodes, right?
DR: The lunar nodes. It was a general book about the lunar nodes through the signs which had been my focus. I came across in 1972 a passage in Rudhyar’s Astrology of Personality–a classic book–where he talked about the lunar nodes. He essentially said in this one paragraph that the lunar nodes could help to explain the why of the whole person’s life. And I remember looking at that and thinking, really? Is that true? Because that seemed like a pretty big deal to me.
DR: And so, I began to focus on that. In my work as a student, I was testing it with people all the time. I would talk to them about the nodes and so forth. So it became an area of focus, and in 2003, I finally got a book out about it. And then I wrote a second edition in 2009–actually in 2008, came out in 2009.
CB: Not to interrupt that point, but it’s interesting that you were so influenced by that passage in Rudhyar because I’ve tried to trace back modern thinking on the lunar nodes, and especially the focus and where that shifted in that passage in Rudhyar. Because it’s not a terribly huge section in The Astrology of Personality, but it actually turned out to be really seminal. It’s not even a chapter. It’s just like a subsection almost where he talks about the nodes, and he introduces what ended up being some very influential thoughts and speculations about how they could be interpreted, and that really generated just a ton of different traditions surrounding the nodes in the 20th and early 21st century.
DR: Yes. Of course, as I’m sure you’ve surmised, I think Rudhyar was very much influenced by Vedic astrology in some of his thinking about that, and Theosophy and so forth. The influence of India certainly is evidenced there, I think.
CB: Yeah, definitely. So you published the book in 2003. And what was the title again really quick?
DR: It’s the Soul Purpose.
DR: It’s the pun on the word. Instead of S-O-L-E, S-O-U-L.
CB: OK, I like that. And you published the revised edition in 2008-2009.
DR: That’s right.
CB: And then you started touring to promote the revised edition.
DR: Actually I did. What happened was by 2009, I had some students that I was mentoring, teaching online in China. And in early 2009, the second edition came out, and I got some good reviews online. I got a good review from Noel Tyl. I got a good review from StarIQ and others. And my students who like to surf these sites saw the reviews and they said, “Hey, we didn’t know about your book. Did you know you could publish that here?” And I said, “Really?” I said, “I had no idea.”
CB: In China, you mean?
DR: In China, yes. And so, the next thing I knew there were three Chinese publishing companies–these students had referred them to me–who were vying for the publication of the book. So I just went with the best deal which was at the time an advance and a book tour, all-paid book tour of China.
DR: Yeah, exactly. That was my first reaction too.
CB: Yeah, that’s pretty sweet. So you actually did that, or you started doing it in 2010?
DR: Actually that was in ’09 when I had the contract, it was like May. And then, I spent the whole summer rewriting the book for a third time for a Chinese audience. Even though I had a historical familiarity as an amateur with China, I knew very little about modern China. So my translator, Jiang Ying, who is Felicia Jiang–you’ve met her.
DR: She was my cliff notes on modern China. Not only was she the translator, she schooled me in modern China. And so, my rewriting of the book was taking examples from well-known people in America and substituting in well-known people in China because the Chinese wouldn’t know who this was otherwise.
CB: Yeah, like using Arnold Schwarzenegger’s chart or something like that?
DR: Yes. Putting in one of the Soong sisters, for example, they would know who that is and any well-known people. And since it was just a book on the lunar nodes to the signs, I didn’t have to worry so much about the birth time because birth times are hard to come by in China of famous people.
CB: Are they recorded at all?
DR: Yes. Oh, they’re recorded but it’s still hard to come by.
CB: But it’s not public information.
DR: No, it’s not.
CB: Got it. How did you first get connected with Felicia who ended up helping you in that way?
DR: Through StarIQ. One of my areas of expertise for most of my practice–or developed in my practice–was chart rectification which Jeff used to call “chart wrongification.”
CB: Why is that, or what’s the joke on that?
DR: Well because he felt like how can you be sure. You work so hard on this, but what if it’s wrong? Anyway, I won’t go into that part of it. And so, he would say, “I don’t like to do this,” so he would send them to me.
DR: So for over 20-something years, anytime someone said they wanted a rectification, he just sent them to me. That’s how Felicia found me, she was on StarIQ. And Jeff said, “Here’s David’s email,” that’s what happened.
CB: Got it. And of course, StarIQ is the website that Jeff Jawer ran with Rick Levine in the 2000s. And actually it was a pretty big website. I mean it still is to this day and has a lot of really great info on it. But that’s funny. So you got that referral initially as a rectification client from Jeff. Then you get that connection with Felicia and then you start working with her basically.
DR: Well I rectified her chart and then she was interested in studying, so she became one of my students.
CB: What drew you to rectification in the first place? How did you fall into that?
DR: It’s I think a natural love of puzzles, logical puzzles. You could explain it by the fact that Saturn in my chart is in Virgo conjunct the South Node in the 9th house, square my Ascendant within 1°. So there’s a love of trying to solve that puzzle. It’s tedious and time-consuming and rarely do you get verification.
CB: Right. Occasionally you do, and that’s always nice when you find out afterwards that somebody finds their birth certificate out of nowhere…
DR: And that’s happened. That’s when you call up all your friend astrologers and say, “Guess what?”
CB: Yeah, I like that. As you mentioned your birth chart, is your data public, or is that something you share?
DR: Public, yeah.
CB: What’s your data, just out of curiosity?
DR: Sure. October 14, 1950, 12:05 PM, in Atlanta.
CB: What’s your rising sign?
CB: Sag. And then, Sun and Moon?
DR: Moon is Sagittarius. Sun in Libra.
CB: Sun in Libra and Moon in–cool. All right, so you start working with Felicia at that point. You get the book translated into Chinese, and then eventually you start touring in China in order to promote it?
DR: Well because I had this book deal with Liping Publishing, I got this book tour which basically meant going from one bookstore to the next. I also lectured at a Waldorf School in Beijing, which was fun, an alternative school there.
DR: And what I found right away was that there was a level of interest and enthusiasm for Western astrology that was beyond anything I had ever seen anywhere. You’ve seen the documentary. You’ve seen some of the old scenes in the bookstore. I think you may have seen a few of them. From all the questions that were asked me, we’d be in there until the bookstore would close down. They’d have to make us all leave.
CB: Right. So you were having just tons, hundreds of younger astrology students attending these lectures that you were giving, and you were kind of blown away by the response and how much interest it seemed to have generated.
DR: Yes. And some of the answers showed real sophistication like they’d really been studying online, and then the same person would ask another question that showed they didn’t know very much at all. It’s a very uneven, very erratic level of knowledge and awareness.
CB: Because they were kind of piecing together bits and pieces they could find online in terms of studying this?
DR: That’s exactly right. Yeah, kind of a reflection of internet study.
CB: Sometimes that happens. I notice sometimes with people that are self-taught, if you’re not able to study with a specific teacher or a specific school sometimes that can happen. Was that part of the issue as well?
DR: Yeah. I also think it was just there was no way to be able to prioritize the information they were getting. In other words, they didn’t know. Is this coming from a reasonably responsible credible source or not? So, there’s that issue.
CB: Sure. So then, you end up deciding to partner up with Felicia to found a school in China?
DR: Yes. It evolved in 2010-2011, along with the launching of a website which was nodoor.com, which we launched in June of 2011.
CB: And that’s the name of the school, right?
DR: Yes, it’s the Nodoor School of Astrology.
CB: And what’s the meaning behind that term?
DR: Well in Chinese, it’s Ruodao, and it actually has layers of meaning. We chose “No Door” ’cause it was also easy in English to remember, but particularly easy in Chinese.
DR: If you say literally, “No Door,” in Chinese what it can mean is “no way,” like no way this could work, or no way this problem could be solved, or no way this could exist. So it was kind of a pun on that term about astrology–no way, in a sense. But then, we found out that there was a Chinese Buddhist monk in the 12th century who had built his whole philosophy which he called “The No Door Philosophy,” meaning that the spiritual world was open to everyone. There was no door.
DR: And then, the other part of what came to me when we were developing the name was that when you look at the sky, there is no wall. And if there is no wall, there is no door.
CB: Sure. I like that.
DR: That’s where the name came from.
CB: And so, people can find that at nodoor.com. That’s your main website for the school, and it’s in Chinese. And so, over the past decade, how did that go? Because you initially started offering classes–was it in Beijing? Where is it located?
DR: Beijing, in the capital.
CB: The capital of China?
CB: And so, let’s back up a little bit and talk about the status of astrology in China. I have some questions in some areas where I’m not very clear. From what I understood when I was talking to Jeffrey Kotyk, when we got up to the modern period, it seemed like there were two streams of astrology in China. There was the indigenous forms of astrology that developed in China–especially around the time of the Han dynasty, and that was largely mundane astrology– but also some elements of what you might refer to as a type of natal astrology with the different animal totems that people might be familiar with from Chinese astrology, right?
DR: It’s true. The Chinese had different constellations than we used, like the Aztecs did, like the Mayans did and so forth. And you’re right, there was an imperial astrology that had some cross-cultural influence from India–a little–but was also very indigenous as well.
CB: Yeah, was largely indigenous. And then, Jeffrey’s research, which is kind of new and kind of unique, was that there was also this other stream that was kept separate. Some texts on Greek astrology were translated into Persian and then translated into Chinese at some point, and made it as far over as Japan at some point. And so, that was a separate stream of almost Western natal astrology that was practiced in China all the way up until–I think Jeffrey said the 18th or 19th century.
But then, once we get to the 20th century, due to some of the changes in the government and political changes, astrology becomes sort of a casualty to that and is outlawed. Am I understanding that correctly?
DR: Well there’s so much that changed. Let me see if I can take a complicated subject and make it simple. In the United States, we had a Civil War that lasted four years. China had a civil war that lasted 140 years.
DR: So even with the attempt at creating, at the time, what we would now call a kind of democracy–which was with Sun Yat-sen in 1914 with that movement–China was still undergoing a civil war. And that civil war was still going on when the Japanese invaded, so China went through hell. The whole culture was constantly in a state of war, revolution, violence. It’s hard for us to even imagine what that was like.
DR: So when the Communists emerged victorious in 1949, their attitude was let’s make everything new. It was kind of like an extreme political Descartes Chinese-style, which is everything old is bad–everything. Confucius, old Chinese traditions–we’re going to eliminate all of that. So it wasn’t just astrology, it was everything.
DR: The party line still is atheist, mechanistic science, which is borrowed from the West, of course, but became the establishment in terms of the party line.
CB: So maybe it was part of the general rejection of older religious philosophies and modes of divination and things like that?
DR: All of it.
CB: All of it, OK.
DR: Astrology was officially labeled–and still today on the books–as feudal superstition. All astrology.
CB: And it’s basically outlawed both the practice as well as publishing?
DR: Again, it’s a more complex area than that. The first horoscope, the first modern Western horoscope to appear in China…
CB: And what do you mean by horoscope? Do you mean chart, or Sun sign?
DR: Yeah, let me clarify that. Like newspaper horoscope–which was on sina.com–that didn’t appear until the year 2000. If we’re talking about when did Western astrology begin to surface without anybody saying, “No, you can’t do that,” that started around 2000.
CB: So maybe with the advent of the internet.
CB: But prior to that time–even though Sun sign astrology in the West started flourishing from the 1950s onward–that was something that was completely absent in China up to the 2000s?
DR: That’s right. Clearly, we’re talking mainland China.
CB: So was there any survival of any of the indigenous forms of Chinese astrology? For example, I know there’s some differences. There’s mainland China where Beijing is the capital and where people think of China when they mention it, but there’s also some of that issue with Taiwan.
DR: Of course. Let’s say there were areas where the traditions were kept and practiced such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. And in all of the Chinese communities–San Francisco, you name it– all over the world, the traditions were kept alive. But the origin of those traditions, the central birth of those traditions, gone.
CB: Was there any underground practice of it still? Or was it still something that was done even in secret, or was it just completely, as far as you know…
DR: As far as I know, no, there was no practice.
CB: But then, that starts to change let’s say with the advent of the internet around the late ’90s and early 2000s. And is that one of the first things that changed, that a horoscope column appeared on Sina, or were there other things happening as well?
DR: That’s the first thing I know of that changed, and that just sort of began the awareness of, “Oh, I have a sign.” It took years from that little point for people to begin to get more interested.
CB: I mean that’s really interesting, almost surprising, because I’d almost think that at least some knowledge of the notion of like the Year of the Dragon–I’m born in the Year of the Rat–would have survived on some low level.
DR: Well sure, there was still the lunar calendar. And the lunar calendar has in it–just like the almanacs in the West used to–some things that you could say were astrological but no one used that term. No one referred to it as that. They referred to it as the lunar calendar.
CB: Sure. So it’s just being used for calendrical and time-keeping purposes.
DR: Sure. It was the calendar of China. In fact, even today you have your lunar calendar birthday and then you have your birthday in the Western calendar that they adopted.
CB: Got it. But with the advent of the internet, some of that couldn’t be kept completely in check. And sina.com though, it’s not a state-run website, but it’s like OK on some level. What is Sina? It’s like a news website?
DR: They were the major–at one point–platform in China before all the other platforms came out. They were the biggest at one time. They still have an astrology channel. In fact, we’re good friends with them, to say the least. I’ve been on their internet TV many times. They recently interviewed Alan Oken when he was in China.
DR: Jiyun who is the head of that channel, she even came to UAC in New Orleans, in 2012. I managed to get a small film crew to UAC from China, and they interviewed you.
CB: Yeah, I remember you guys did interviews with a ton of astrologers at the time.
DR: That was a first. We were showing those in China. China was still a little more open at that point.
CB: Right. So you found Nodoor in 2010?
DR: That’s correct.
CB: You start teaching classes in 2012. I remember that you came with a film crew, with the Sina film crew to interview a bunch of Western astrologers, and that was posted on their website. You started doing certification I think at one point in 2013, right?
DR: Yeah, we did a little bit of that in 2012, but not much. Because we had people that had started studying with us in the fall of 2010, and that went on through all of 2011 and 2012, but we didn’t really develop our certification fully to a greater degree until 2013. And then, we became an ISAR-affiliated school in 2013.
DR: I want to just say this briefly. When I was on my book tour–and even subsequent travel in China during those early years–I didn’t want the focus to be on me and my book. I was fine with that. I had a PPT that showed all of the organizations in the West–AFAN and NCGR, all of them, websites. This is what’s going on in the West. These are places you can go to find astrologers. These are places you can go to learn about astrologers. So I had this PPT to expose people to the West because I wanted them to know what are trusted places to go.
CB: Right. Where can they find more information about this?
DR: And even though I was with AFAN for four years and still support AFAN, the one organization that stepped forth the most to be supportive of what we were trying to do with our school was ISAR. They were amazing.
CB: Yeah, in the late ’90s and early 2000s, I’ve talked in past podcast episodes about how they really pushed for certification and both setting up certifications and standards for training astrologers, but also focused on things like ethics and creating a code of ethics and doing ethics training for astrologers. And so, that’s something that you started bringing into China was some of your training and some of your school basically, right?
DR: Yes, that’s right.
CB: So what did that involve? What types of things did you start doing? What’s involved in the ethics training for ISAR, for example?
DR: Well we brought over the first year, which would have been 2013, four trainers from ISAR. Monica Dimino, and Chris McRae, and Gisele Terry–even though she got stuck in Hong Kong for a little bit because of her flight–and Dorothy Oja, we brought them to Beijing. Dorothy did an ethics workshop or class and did the ethics test. We did consulting skills training. We even trained people to become trainers and so forth.
CB: Consulting skills training, that’s actually a really interesting one. What did you do? What does consulting skills training involve?
DR: Consulting skills training is essentially based upon the fact that as an astrologer, you are a kind of counselor, and so it’s teaching basic counseling skills. I have to say it’s at least an introduction because it’s only a three-day process at this point. I’m hoping it’ll be longer.
DR: But it’s an introduction to some of the basic pros and cons that you need to know when you’re working with people as a counselor. And it’s an eye-opener I think for a lot of people who’ve never been exposed to it.
CB: Yeah. I mean it’s really helpful because astrologers find themselves in that role where you’re reading a chart, but there are some things that come up that can be really sensitive or delicate when you’re dealing with an individual and they’re talking about some pretty sensitive stuff in their life. And if you don’t have a background in psychology or counseling already, there’s some guidelines that you need to know about that are useful as you get into that mode.
CB: So that’s something that you’re training people on?
DR: Yes. We also teach it at our school as well.
CB: And aside from that, it seems like you’re bringing over a specific type of modern, tends to be more psychological astrology that you’re teaching, right?
DR: I would say our core astrology is more humanistic, more psychological. But we encourage our students to seek out whatever kind of astrology they’re interested in. In our core curriculum, you are pictured, for example. Your website is on there. If people want to know about Hellenistic astrology, you’re the one to go to. We had Robert Hand, of course, teach 24 webinars for us as part of elective courses for our students.
We have a program that involves many teachers. So we have a core curriculum, we have electives–it’s important. A young student of astrology should trust their curiosity. Whatever they’re interested in, they should be able to go study it. So what if the school you went to had a humanistic philosophy. That’s not the final say on everything.
CB: Sure, and I appreciate that. But in terms of some of the teachers that you brought over were people like Steven Forrest, for example. Who were other teachers that you brought to…
DR: Richard Tarnas.
CB: Tarnas, OK.
DR: Of course, Glenn Perry and Sue Tompkins who’s one of our core curriculum teachers, original founder of the LSA, London School of Astrology. And of course, we had Jeff for awhile.
CB: Yeah, before he passed away just a few years ago really sort of suddenly and unexpectedly.
DR: That’s correct.
CB: Actually the last time I saw him was at an ISAR conference. It must have been the one in Arizona, in 2013 or 2014.
DR: That’s right.
CB: Were you at that conference?
DR: No, I was not at that conference. But I was at the memorial service in 2015, the one that Jeff had forecast unknowingly in The Mountain Astrologer.
CB: What did say?
DR: He used to write the forecast material for Mountain Astrologer.
CB: Yeah, he was the core forecast guy for years, for it must have been as long as I was reading, which was like 10 years, 15 years up to that point.
DR: And I’ll send you the exact thing that he wrote by email just so you can look at it and go, “Oh, my god.” But essentially, he would turn these things in months in advance. So he turned this into The Mountain Astrologer in early December before he knew what was going on with him health wise.
And he described the exact weekend of his memorial service. It was in the old Moon in Pisces and in the New Moon in Pisces. The New Moon was at 28° Pisces. And he described it as being like the death of someone you loved who’s surrounded by everyone that loved them and now must move on. I mean he described his own memorial service.
CB: Wow, that’s wild.
DR: Yeah, I’ll send it to you. It’s like, whoa.
CB: He would have submitted that months in advance, but he was diagnosed with cancer I think early in the following year, and then it was like really quick after that.
DR: That’s right, which is how he wanted it.
DR: So other teachers we’ve had, we’ve had Hadley Fitzgerald teach. We’ve had Adrian Duncan, Lynn Bell. In fact, Lynn Bell is going to be coming to China for an ISAR in China conference in November.
CB: Nice. And that’s 2019?
DR: For this year in November 2019.
DR: We’re having a small, little conference. We’ve managed to make that happen so far it seems. And Adrian Duncan has taught for us. Wow, we’ve had quite a list actually.
CB: Yeah, that sounds like a pretty good list in terms of contemporary Western astrologers.
DR: But you’re right, more contemporary, more psychologically-oriented, more humanistic.
CB: But something changed over the course of the past decade at some point, from my understanding, where astrology was being practiced but then you may have started running into more issues with publishing or something.
DR: That’s right. The first thing that happened was, in 2014, the publishing of astrology books was banned in China.
CB: So prior to that point, your book, for example, was that published in mainland China, that translation?
DR: Oh, yeah, and in simplified Chinese. Here’s the thing. You can still get a book published in Taiwan, it probably won’t be in simplified Chinese, which is the Chinese alphabet that the Chinese read. It’ll be in traditional Chinese. They can read it, but it’s vertical, and it’s left-to-right. It’s completely different than the modern, simplified Chinese.
CB: So a book published in Taiwan is written in a style that’s harder for a mainland Chinese person to read?
DR: This is correct. Now because books in mainland China can no longer be published, there are those in Taiwan who are now saying, “Hey, we should do some books in simplified Chinese.” So I just recently learned that there’s a move in that direction.
CB: Do you know what caused that to happen in 2014? Was there an event, or was it just out of nowhere?
DR: I’d rather say that I’m ignorant of that. It’s just that’s what happened.
CB: It just happened. That’s fine, we don’t have to get into that. So the publishing thing then…
DR: Oh, for example, Steven Forrest was trying to get a couple of more books published. His books were censored.
CB: It was something like he couldn’t get an ISBN number or something like that for two books?
DR: That’s right.
CB: So were there any other things besides just publishing? Did this cause any issues in terms of you teaching your schools or organizing seminars?
DR: No, there’s been no problem with that.
CB: Cool, so you just continue on. And your school wasn’t necessarily the only one. There’s other schools in mainland China as well, right?
DR: There are now. I guess the easiest way to say this is we had to both build the tracks and build the train.
CB: You felt like you were doing things from scratch when you were building yours?
DR: No question about it, there was no serious astrology in mainland China. Now there was an influence from Taiwan–and you would love this–it was a classical influence. When I first came to China, there were some students who were students of a classical teacher in Taiwan, so there was some influence there.
CB: I know a lot of Ben Dyke’s books have been translated over the past decade. And I think Cecily Han is one of the main people in Taiwan who’s behind some of that.
DR: Yeah, but there was even influence before that. Robert Zoller had a student, and this student became a teacher in Taiwan. So there was already a little bit of a classical influence in 2009-2010. But we were the first ones to come to China with the reinvented astrology that’s more psychological, more humanistic. No one knew what that was.
So anyway, to answer your question, yes, other groups have sprang up, other websites, people, in some instances, just trying to cash in on the popularity of astrology to make money doing silly things, and then others who are serious.
CB: Yeah, I know there’s also a NCGR group in Taiwan that’s great, that’s very active.
DR: And there’s another group–they’re all former students of Nodoor’s–called the New Moon Group, and we wish them all well. We want everyone who is a serious, credible professional astrologer in China to do well, to be successful.
CB: Yeah, I know Kiki Chen.
DR: Sure, who was a student of mine.
CB: Was she? And she was on the AFAN board at one point.
DR: Yeah. In fact, I’m the one that recommended Kiki to take my old position on the AFAN board. I said, “She’s great,” so that’s how she got that.
CB: Yeah, she at one point had sent an email where I was trying to research this and had some helpful notes, just as I was trying to research some background for this episode. So I wanted to actually give her a shoutout for that.
DR: Yes. Hello, Kiki.
CB: And she’s connected with the New Moon School, you said?
DR: Right. And the New Moon Group, of course, eventually connected with Frank Howard and the London School of Astrology.
CB: With Frank Clifford.
DR: Clifford, sorry. Frank Clifford and the LSA.
CB: Got it.
DR: And essentially, Nodoor encouraged–in the beginning, when the New Moon Group first started off–we supported them before they actually began their own more serious programs with Frank Clifford. We were supporters of them, and we still are. Even though we’re in competition–so what?
DR: You want to see that. You want to have diversity.
CB: Yeah, it seems like there’s so much interest that’s been generated in astrology at this point that maybe there’s a lot of students and other people that are enthusiasts of astrology to go around at this point, I would assume.
DR: Yeah, so now the trains can run on the tracks that we built.
CB: So in terms of that, where are you at, at this point? You’re organizing seminars still. You mentioned that conference that’s coming up later this year.
DR: Well that’s an ISAR event. So ISAR has a strong and growing membership in China. And of course, we still have our own Nodoor School of Astrology which is doing really well. We have full-time staff spread out over four cities of 17 people. And we have part-time, maybe another seven or eight people, and we stay very busy. I know you’re a busy astrologer. The crazy, busy life I’ve created for myself in China is about 12 hours a day, six days a week at least.
CB: So what is it like? Are there any things that you’ve had to get used to as you adapted? As I’ve studied it in different cultures and especially down through history, it seems like astrology always adapts to whatever its host culture is. And while there’s some parts of it that are kind of immutable or timeless, there are some parts of it that sort of grow and adapt just based on the cultural sensibilities of the context in which it’s being practiced. Are there any things like that that you had to adjust about your approach to astrology, as you learned what the culture was like in China that was different than where you started practicing in Atlanta?
DR: Clearly. And let me just say this. Before I went to China, I was fat and happy, essentially. In Atlanta, I had a very comfortable practice, and I had stopped taking new clients and referring them to others. And I had clients that had been with me for many, many years, and even their kids when they became adults became my clients. If you would have asked me in 2009–even early 2009 before I got the book deal–what are your plans and are you happy, I would have said, “Yeah, I love this. I feel lucky everyday to be an astrologer.”
CB: So you had a full, thriving consultation practice.
DR: That’s correct.
CB: How many clients would you see a day? I always ask different astrologers that question because I’m fascinated. Some astrologers, doing just one or two clients a day is a lot for them in terms of their energy output, whereas others, like Rick Levine, will just do a ton of clients in a single day without batting an eye.
DR: Well I don’t know if it was without batting an eye, but I would say the average was pretty simple, so between 17 and 20 a week. So three or four a day…
CB: Three or four a day, OK. That’s a lot.
DR: …five days a week, but it was a normal 40-hour week. You can do that in a 40-hour week and have a weekend, and have a life, and be quite happy, which I was.
DR: But the fact of the matter is I didn’t know I could be happier in terms of fulfillment. Because it’s one thing to say, wow, astrology’s been very good to me, it’s another thing to be able to share your experience with young people who are so enthusiastic. So when you ask me about Chinese students, and how are they different and what did I have to learn, I had to reinvent myself as a teacher.
DR: The things that I assumed could be grasped even with translation were not grasped as easily, and let me explain briefly. In a general sense, Chinese students are the smartest students I’ve ever encountered by and large–incredibly smart, have incredible memories, unbelievable memories, and a powerful logic. So logic, memories, superior minds in that sense, but struggling with holistic thinking.
CB: What do you mean? Define holistic in this context?
DR: In other words, holistic in the context of being able to relate the part of the chart to the whole of the chart, very simple.
DR: A Western student would be able to grasp that connection more readily–be able to think that way more creatively, and even take the initiative creatively–but was not the case with students there. So I found myself having to teach holism. So I had to think, what do I know, and what do I not know? So it was a remaking of me as a teacher.
I can tell you, they would ask me very tough questions from a logical point of view. “What about this aspect, and what about this thing?” “And does it always manifest this way, and why doesn’t it always manifest this way?” And I would say because every chart is different, and you need to compare this back to the rest of the chart. So I’ve learned how to teach that, but it was a wonderful challenge. I loved it actually.
CB: I don’t know whether to overplay this or underplay this, or if I’m overplaying this. But different philosophical or metaphysical assumptions that you were making as even an American when you were teaching astrology that didn’t connect–or that you were surprised when you realized you were trying to translate to a different audience–was that different for them in any way? Maybe I’m overemphasizing it. I’m just curious if there were any things like that, unexpected things that you ran into that were different from a philosophical perspective?
DR: Sure. In a general sense, the philosophy of the society was much more fatalistic.
CB: Oh, it was more fatalistic.
DR: Oh, yeah.
CB: And you’re coming at it from a humanistic standpoint.
DR: We not only had to teach astrology, we had to teach humanistic philosophy, and personal growth, and person-centered–that had no concept–and holism.
CB: That’s funny because one of the challenges that we’ve had at doing traditional astrology is that Americans especially are so steeped in humanism that teaching anything even a little bit of the opposite of a sort of determinism is almost foreign to them. One of the major sticking points for even being interested in older forms of astrology for a lot of Westerners is not being able to deal with almost any level of determinism to a certain extent.
So it’s interesting. The first thing I think of is just the contrast then, the issue you ran into as you were bringing in a sort of humanism to otherwise a more deterministic mindset.
DR: Yeah, there was just no awareness that you could look at a birth chart and learn from the birth chart things that might help you to develop–in terms of whether you want to call it personal growth, or personal development, or just improving yourself. There was no awareness that you could use a chart that way. They thought of it as a purely deterministic thing.
The kind of questions that were asked me in 2010 when I was on the book tour would be questions like, “I was told that because I have Saturn in the 5th house square the Moon that I will never have children.” Or somebody will say, “My son was born with the Moon in the 8th house, and I was told this means I will die soon.” There were these kinds of questions commonly asked.
CB: And so, part of your process then in reacting to that I can imagine would have been–because that was a big deal in late 20th century astrology–the rejection of some of those more deterministic and almost fatalistic interpretations. When we talk about humanism and importing that into astrology, we’re talking about trying to encourage looking at the chart as having more options and having more freedom to negotiate the way the different placements will manifest. And so, that’s something you were probably really emphasizing in what you were teaching in response to questions like that.
DR: I was, but I was doing it as gently as possible because I’m a foreigner, and I don’t want to be one of these Americans over there saying, “Hey, you guys don’t know what you’re doing.” All I am is an astrologer who was like the country doctor, in some ways. I was practicing astrology five days a week, very happy, and had learned a few things along the way in practicing. And I was just looking for a way to find a way to share that with them that would actually make sense in their lives, actually work.
DR: I understand historically the sensitivity that astrologers have around the whole issue of forecasting prediction. I understand it from a concern from a psychological point of view, concern from trying to establish astrology along more credible lines in society. It’s a huge subject.
CB: Right, but that’s one of the things astrologers emphasize, especially humanistic astrologers emphasize the notion that astrology is not literally predictive. Instead of making a prediction, you’re making a forecast because a forecast is like a qualified prediction. That’s something that you’re emphasizing in your general philosophy?
DR: Of course, in the sense that there’s some things in your life you have control over and there’s some things you don’t. I’m very common sense about that. I’m really coming from a practice base of just dealing with people everyday for years, so I feel very common sense about this.
Many astrologers will say, “Hey, you know what? The example I gave the client to explain something in their chart turns out to be something that actually happened.” And that’s a good thing, nothing wrong with that. You’ve actually given an example that validates something, and it turns out to be something that actually happened in their life. Now people will say, “That’s because it was in the past, not in the future,” and that gets into an interesting discussion about what is the future and so forth. But I don’t know. If we go down that road, we’ll be in here for hours.
CB: Yeah, we don’t have to. We’ve had a few episodes about that, about free will and forecasting and things like that.
DR: And multiple realities in the future and all that sort of thing.
CB: Right, but that’s an interesting thing that you bring up in terms of just the philosophical differences. That was something that developed over the course of a few decades in the West, especially with the Pluto in Leo generation that came in, in the 1960s and ’70s, of which I assume that you’re one of them. Are you Pluto in Leo?
DR: Yeah, I’m one of those. Of course I am.
CB: But that was like a development over the course of a few decades of some of those discussions about prediction versus forecasting, or ethics and bringing more psychological and more humanistic counseling models into astrology. And this is something that you’re just arriving with suddenly with your school and teaching people in 2010, and in a different context and in a much more rapid timeframe.
DR: That’s correct.
CB: Were there any other things like that that were different culturally that you had to adapt to, even when doing delineations? Did you start doing consultations with individuals in China?
DR: Not in the beginning. It’s been a long, sometimes painful but necessarily painful process because I had an established clientele. And so, for a long time in the beginning, I would go back to the U.S., see my clients when I’m in China. I’m talking with them on Skype, also teaching. And so, my hours got longer and longer because I’m trying to still service my clients in the U.S., or in Europe and wherever, and at the same time, teaching. So no, in the beginning, I did not take any clients in China.
CB: Did you start learning Chinese?
DR: I’m still learning Chinese.
CB: OK. Like some people, languages come really easily to them. I am not one of those people. It’s taken me a long time just to pick up some ancient Greek and things like that. How are you with languages?
DR: I don’t know. I would say I will be learning Chinese for the rest of my life. I’ve been trying to learn Chinese for the last nine years. Though in the beginning, I wasn’t there as much. I’ve only really lived there full-time for the last four years.
DR: It has made every other language that I hear sound so easy. Now when I hear Spanish, I’m like, “Wow,” or French, or German, or whatever. I’m like, “Oh, that’s so much easier.”
CB: Right, which are all related in some way to English by root languages, the Romance languages. But with Chinese, I’ve heard that even the inflexion really changes major…
DR: Right, it’s a tonal language, and there’s four tones, or five if you have a neutral tone, but there’s four tones. If you say it wrong, the meaning is entirely different. You have to be conscious of that, and they’re nice about correcting you all the time.
CB: So then, when you do a consultation…
DR: I have a translator.
CB: You have a translator, OK.
DR: That’s right.
CB: Got it.
DR: When I teach, I have a translator. But more and more, whenever I have an opportunity, I will speak Chinese to my staff, to friends, to say sometimes things to even a client in Chinese.
CB: Great. And I’m trying to think of other questions I had about that in terms of the language. One of the things that I’ve had an issue with in reviving Hellenistic astrology is sometimes having to come up with new terms that don’t exist yet for words that were used in ancient Greek for technical terms. Did you run into that as an issue where you guys have had to come up with new terms for astrological concepts that don’t exist yet in Chinese?
CB: What are some examples of that? Can you think of an example?
DR: Even the word for “soul,” for example, which is not an astrological word. Essentially, the current language of astrology in China–Western astrology–has been developed as the result of what we did.
CB: So you guys feel like you’ve been pioneers where you’ve had to invent a lot of new terminology?
DR: Or just take Chinese words and use them in a new way.
CB: Yeah, because I’m thinking of things like secondary progression or transit…
DR: Sure, all of that.
CB: …or like sextile, for example.
DR: Well then, it’s a six.
DR: Right. Meaning you’ll just use the Chinese number for six and that becomes the aspect and so forth. So you just take the language and simplify it in terms of the translation. It means creating new words like 8th house is bā gōng because “house” is gong, so bā gōng. It’s the same all the way around. But these terms were never used that way before–that didn’t exist. You wouldn’t ever say “8th house.” It had no meaning in China.
CB: Yeah, and it’s really interesting the words that you pick. I’ve always tried to be really conscious as we were reviving Hellenistc astrology because I’ve seen in past tradition–like in the 8th century or in the 12th century–translators will pick terms that would end up being used for centuries after that.
So I’m sure some of the terminology that you guys have selected–to the extent that it catches on and becomes common phrases–will end up being terms. That almost creative choice that you made in choosing one term over another could end up influencing traditions for centuries. Has that weighed on you at all? I guess since you’re working a lot with translators, sometimes they’re the ones making some of those creative decisions.
DR: Yeah, they are, and we’ll discuss it. Afterwards, or during break, I’ll say, “Well, I heard you thinking about that. What did you come up with?” and we’ll discuss it, and it’s interesting.
CB: Yeah, that’s something that’s just fascinating to me in terms of languages. Astrology is weird sometimes, where sometimes you can just find a term in a host language that matches, but other times, you have to transliterate from another language.
DR: A lot of times, it’s just the English word itself doesn’t translate.
DR: In astrology, one of the overused words is the word “dynamic.” There’s no literal translation in Chinese, for example. There’s a lot of words like that.
CB: Yeah, that’s funny. So it sort of forces you to think more in trying to teach it. Because that happens just in teaching astrology. One of my first teachers, Demetra George, always said that one of the best ways eventually that you go through in your career to learn astrology or to check what you learn is attempting to teach it to somebody else. Because sometimes in the process of doing so, you really have to think more deeply about some of the things that you think you know and come to a deeper level of understanding when trying to transmit that to somebody else. I’m sure that’s been another experience for you in trying to transmit it to another language.
DR: Yes, and the translation evolves with the translator. We have an amazing set or group of translators who have been trained in astrology as well. And, wow, as their awareness and knowledge of astrology evolves, so does their translating capacity, and that’s fun too.
CB: So I’m trying to think of some other areas that I meant to touch on. I’ve been noticing over the past couple of years that there’s suddenly been this explosion in the popularity of astrology amongst younger people in their 20s and even teens. And especially it seems like the Pluto in Sagittarius generation is starting to come into the field very suddenly and very abruptly here in the West. Have you noticed any generational or any sort of spikes in that in terms of people coming into the field in China over the past decade?
CB: Yes, you have?
DR: Yes, no question. Our student body is mostly in their 20s.
DR: We’ll be getting more and more of the Pluto in Sag generation with time. And we have a certain percentage of students who are also in their 30s and through their mid-30s, then it starts to taper off. Maybe the oldest to do it will be 40, but most of them are in their 20s.
CB: Is there no Pluto in Leo equivalent, generational thing? I know in the West, your generation, there was such a huge group of them that came in, in the ’60s and ’70s.
DR: Most of our students are Pluto in Scorpio. We have some Pluto in Libra, but most of them are Pluto in Scorpio. And most of our staff, well some of them are Pluto in Libra certainly. My assistant, my executive assistant is Pluto in Scorpio, and most of them are. So it’s kind of fun working with young people, I have to say.
DR: It’s exciting. We like to say that we bring the best from the West, so I hope we bring you there someday. That’ll be fun.
CB: Yeah, I did a workshop for the first time, for the NCGR Taiwan group with Maki, just a few months ago that was a lot of fun. But that’s interesting that you’re having that experience in working with all those people. Of course, you already would have been an astrologer working with charts when some of those people were born in the 1980s and stuff. And I’m only just now, in my career, starting to have that experience where I’m starting to run into astrologers now who have birth charts from transits I remember looking at in the late ’90s.
DR: They’re your transits right there.
CB: Right. So I’m sure you’ve got a lot of those in terms of your students and some of the people that you’re working with, with your school.
DR: Absolutely. Being in China has transformed me. I don’t know–if you look at relocation astrology, natally I have Pluto in the 8th house in my natal chart, but there, in China, it’s in my 1st house. In fact, in Beijing, Pluto’s conjunct my Ascendant.
CB: Interesting. So your Pluto Ascendant line runs right through Beijing?
DR: Very near. All of the eastern part of China.
CB: What degree is your Pluto?
CB: 19 Leo?
DR: So literally, going to a place that has transformed me, changed my whole life, little by little. The most painful part of it has been downsizing my practice in the U.S. and in Europe. I’ve referred a lot of my clients out. I still have a core group of clients that still consult me on Skype and when I’m in the U.S., but that’s been a struggle for me.
CB: Yeah, because you build up those relationships over the course of decades. And when your priorities change or just your focus changes and your availability changes, sometimes you just can’t serve them as frequently as you used to.
DR: Something tells me you know about that.
CB: Yeah, doing the podcast over the past two years, getting so busy in doing for episodes of month has shifted it so I’ve had to refer a lot of my clients to Lisa, or to my friend Patrick Watson.
DR: Right. It’s a challenge. You have to let go.
CB: Yeah, because you’ve built relationships with these people. And you’ve come to know a lot about their personal lives and come to care about what’s going on in their life and almost enjoy checking in from time to time to hear the latest update of what chapter of their life they’re in today.
DR: That’s right. So also, during the entire time I’ve been in China, I’ve had one Pluto transit after another. As I’m sitting here today, Saturn is exactly square my Sun, or within minutes, and Pluto is retrograded back square my Sun in Libra.
CB: What degree?
DR: My Sun, if you round it off, it’s 21. It’s 20+.
CB: 21 Libra.
CB: Got it.
DR: As you know, on my way here today, I got in this fierce dust storm here in Denver. A dust devil, in fact, swept through the parking lot knocking down some small children who were getting out of their cars
CB: Oh, no.
DR: It was quite a blast actually. I thought, no, I’m going to make it to Chris’s regardless.
CB: Yeah, and what’s funny about that is I was also struck down with cold today. So we weren’t sure, I sort of pushed through. I have to thank you for doing it nonetheless, and apologies to everybody listening to this if my voice sounds a little different.
DR: It has a deeper tone to it.
CB: Yeah, good for radio like yours. All right, I’m trying to think of some of the other areas that I meant to go into in terms of what do you see the future of astrology in China being like.
DR: What I’m hoping is that we continue to grow, even with astrology remaining in a gray area legally.
CB: That’s what you consider it to be at this point, a gray area legally?
DR: In other words, astrology is tolerated. I think that’s the best way I could say it. Therefore, the need to be responsible has even more repercussions than normally in that sense. So I hope simply that the profession, and practice, and study of astrology just continues to develop in China. This is idealistic, of course, but I’m hoping that they will somehow, even in their environment, do better than we have, find new ways of doing what we do. Maybe they will reinvent the astrology in a way we never thought about. That excites me.
CB: That happens just in the history of astrology. Astrology, sometimes it’s transmitted to one culture and sometimes merged with their culture or synthesized with some pieces of their indigenous forms of astrology. And then, eventually, after a period of time, sometimes it gets transmitted back in a different form, or it ends up influencing other cultures further down the line in interesting and unique ways.
DR: And the other thing, of course, is it’s so exciting to see your students graduate, become ISAR CAPs, etc., and go on and become very successful in their practice early on in those first few years. And you see them, they come by and visit–come by the office and visit–come by the school, or go out to lunch, whatever, and they’re doing it.
CB: So there’s professional astrologers that are making a living doing astrology as their primary profession in China at this point?
DR: Yes, and it’s so fulfilling. It’s maybe the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever experienced in my life to see that, and to see them doing it even faster sometimes than I did it.
DR: A lot of times, I’ll just say to my students, I’ll look at them and say, “Most of you are probably a lot smarter than me. But I’m going to share with you what I know and let’s see what you do with it.”
CB: Yeah, that’s always really fulfilling as a teacher to be able to teach somebody what you know, but then see them go off and exceed you, or do even better, or find things that you didn’t even know, or do things you didn’t know were possible.
CB: So that’s interesting. Are there astrology apps, or applications, or programs that are used in China that we don’t necessarily know about in the West?
DR: Yes, all kinds. Tutu is probably the most popular. Tutu has everything on it. I know that Nodoor would like to have all of those things too, but they went faster than we did with the technical aspect. We have some products also. We have a tech team in Xiamen. We have four people that are part of our own tech team for Nodoor.
But there’s all kinds of astrological software and products and things that you can use. And Nodoor has them too–chart calculation, all these kind of things–where you can go and get interpretations in Chinese.
CB: Yeah, I’m just curious. There’s some astrology software programs that we know about that we use like Solar Fire, or what have you, or websites like astro.com. Although I know that they increasingly translate different portions of their website into different languages which is great.
DR: We tell them about it. Since I’ve been there, of course, I told them about Kepler and Solar Fire and astro.com. To get to the Western sites, a student in China has to use a VPN.
CB: Oh, right. So they have to use a workaround sometimes in order to access websites that aren’t endorsed by the government, so that might be a reason why they might not be able to access certain astrology sites.
DR: A lot of sites cannot be accessed anymore.
DR: It was different. The internet has become more managed increasingly. There used to be a lot of VPNs, now there’s very few. And it’s just reality. It’s just the way it is.
CB: Sure. Let’s see, so astrology apps is one of the things I was curious about.
DR: I wish I had my tech people here. They could give you all kinds of details.
CB: Well maybe some people could post in the comments section that are listening either to the audio version of this on The Astrology Podcast website, or on the YouTube version some links to some things like that. I’m curious what is available or what’s out there. One of the other questions I had is–I know that you’ve brought ISAR certification to China through your school. Have there been other movements to do certification in China by other groups?
DR: Not that I’m aware of, except for, of course, whatever kind of degree or diploma they might get from the London School of Astrology, through Frank Clifford. That’s a new thing that New Moon is offering. But as far as anything comparable to ISAR, nothing yet.
DR: ISAR has really advanced a lot. There’s about 300 Chinese members of ISAR now, and out of that number, a lot of them have joined in the last two years. One of the things–something you might find interesting since you’re a teacher–is our teaching process is kind of revolutionary in a way, what we do. We have online and offline teaching, but we also have a teaching assistant/customer support person, student support, and a TA, a teaching assistant. And in between the webinars that we do for our students as part of all of our programs, we also have little webinars in between from the TA. The TA will teach a salon, as they say. They like to use that term salon, the French word more.
And every class has its own WeChat group. And WeChat is, of course, a platform part of the social media. But you create groups that are closed groups, and it becomes a way for people to discuss the astrology they’re learning 24/7.
DR: So we have all of it. We have so many groups, and I’m in most of them. It’s a very wonderful and time-consuming trying to keep up with it.
CB: Right, because there’s different social media sites in China.
DR: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
CB: That’s one of the ones that’s permissible or open?
DR: Oh, yeah, absolutely. The biggest one is Weibo which is a micro blog where I’m able to comment and talk about things everyday, whether it’s in my personal life or sharing things about astrology in some way everyday.
CB: And you actually have a lot of followers on Weibo, right?
DR: It’s developed. It came out of sina.com. Weibo’s still owned by sina.com. And at this point, it’s 1.27 million followers that are on Weibo.
DR: And it’s such an opportunity. I’ll be talking more about you on my Weibo in the next week. I’ll have some pictures of us on there and talk about you and what’s going on. They want to know. They want to know about astrology in the West and what’s happening. So it’s a lot of fun.
But going back to the teaching model, students learn faster not just from listening to the teacher and the TA–they learn that way–but they learn from each other. So having these groups, these sharing groups is such an important part of the learning process, I love that.
CB: Yeah, forums are really important and crucial. One of the major ways that astrology I’ve seen has changed in the West over the past decade is the ability for astrologers to meet up and just talk with each other even if they’re not physically located through forums.
I’ve noticed especially in the past 10 years, different websites, different platforms that astrologers are using in order to promote themselves and also talk about astrology, like Twitter, or YouTube, or podcasts. Do you see anything like that in China in terms of acceptable platforms?
DR: Yeah, but it’s not as easy to do, in other words.
DR: I’ve been on, and Felicia Jiang–who’s my co-founder of Nodoor–is also on television there a lot of the time, and also internet TV. And we do podcast, but we are also mindful of the limits of that too, so it’s a regulated kind of thing. There’s some platforms where we really cannot post, so we have to be discriminating in how we go about it and respectful of the structure of society there.
CB: And I’m sure in terms of some of the things that you’re doing with ethics training and counseling skills training that part of the purpose of that is maybe to help guide and shape the practice of astrology in China, in order to make sure that people are doing things that are ethical, that are not going to be harmful to people, and also not going to get astrologers in trouble, I assume.
DR: Sure. I think all astrologers, all responsible astrologers, our basic rule is, do no harm. It’s pretty basic.
CB: Yeah, which is great. And I know most people, everybody approaches it pretty much from that perspective. But sometimes, just knowing or being taught what could be harmful to a person, sometimes that isn’t immediately… If you don’t have that background training in counseling or something, sometimes just knowing some basic guidelines are being taught can be helpful as you shift into more of that practice.
DR: That’s right, absolutely, we’re evolving that. I can say on here, for example, this is something I’ll be presenting tomorrow to the ISAR board–so you can say this is hot news if you want to–which is that the ISAR exam will also now have consultation exam as part of its revised program. We’ve been working very hard over the last year with our new board to rejuvenate, revitalize everything about ISAR, and we are all working together very happily. We’re happy to be here in Denver. We’re looking forward to 2020.
But our consulting skills training, the exam, the ethics, all of that is continuing now to really evolve and grow. So I’m excited to say that that whole certification process I think is going to become increasingly–at least from a liberal arts point of view–more reflective of the astrological community than it’s ever been.
CB: So the ISAR board, let’s talk a little bit about that. When did you join the ISAR board?
DR: In the early part of 2017.
CB: OK, so just in the past couple of years.
DR: That’s right.
CB: It does seems like a new group has come into the board and infused it with some new energy over the past two years. And you became the vice president–when was that?
DR: Some time in the last year, right after Aleksandar became president.
CB: Aleksandar Imsiragic?
DR: Imsiragic, yes. I was a supporter of his. Actually when we were in–was it August? August of 2017–we had an ISAR board meeting–was when Aleksandar was elected president.
CB: And he has a large astrology school.
DR: He does.
CB: Where again? What city?
CB: In Belgrade. OK, in Serbia.
DR: Serbia, right.
CB: Got it. I mean that’s actually kind of interesting and unique and different compared to in the past where especially the U.S. organizations have tended to be run by people from the U.S., or people with schools in the U.S. But it’s actually interesting at this point that Aleksandar has this large school in Serbia–one of the larger schools there in Europe–and is the president of ISAR now. And you have a large school, of course, in China.
DR: That’s right. 3,000 students, an active student body.
CB: Right, and you’re the vice president. So ISAR in that way is starting to take on more of an international role to reflect its name.
DR: That’s right. We now have global directors. We used to call them vice presidents, but that became very confusing to people.
CB: So you changed the terminology for that?
DR: That’s right.
CB: How does that work again?
DR: A global director is someone who represents ISAR in a certain country. Oftentimes, they have schools, not always. And they will often be involved with some of the programs that ISAR has in terms of consulting skills training, ethics training, and exam. And it just continues to grow–getting a global director in Norway, or getting a new one in Cyprus–and we’re excited about this.
CB: Yeah, my friend, Paula Belluomini, I believe just became the director in Brazil.
DR: That’s right. So to be a part of that is such an opportunity.
CB: Yeah, it’s great because it does create more of an international orientation for the organization, and I’m hoping some of that gets reflected in terms of the conference. I know usually when I attend past ISAR conferences, I’ve really enjoyed it in terms of being able to meet more international astrologers from around the world at those conferences compared to other ones.
DR: I think you’ll see that here in Denver.
CB: So let’s talk about that for a little bit, since that’s actually what you’re here for this week. You guys scheduled this conference. It’s happening in 2020, next year. So a year-and-a-half from now, here in Denver. It’s going to be a week-long conference.
DR: Early September.
CB: Early September, OK. And you guys are really focusing especially in terms of the theme of the conference–usually conferences have some sort of theme or orientation–on the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction that’s occurring next year.
DR: That’s right, in Aquarius.
CB: In Aquarius, right. Yeah, there’s like a ton of mundane shit next year in terms of different things going on.
CB: And it’s going to be broken up into tracks, right?
DR: Yes, even though all I can say at this point is that the membership, of course, is always involved in selecting speakers for the conference.
CB: Yeah, I mean you guys just did voting. That actually just concluded…
DR: Yes, the vetting and voting, and it’s such a process. All I can tell you is that you’ll see more diversity, more young people than ever, which is really what we’re for. We want to see more of that.
DR: I’m part of the old Pluto in Leo generation, and whatever I can do to set a groundwork for ISAR to evolve beyond even where it is now, it’s exciting to do it. But it’s going to be others. It’s going to be people–younger people like you and others, and your students and others–who get involved with ISAR more so, who will eventually be on the board and will take what we’re doing and do more with it, go further with it. This is what’s exciting to me.
CB: I appreciated that you guys tried to make the speaker selection process more democratic with this recent round, where you just finished this month selecting the first 30 speakers. And that was actually done by a vote from the entire ISAR membership.
DR: That’s correct.
CB: And they ended up picking 30 of what will be the first 30 speakers that were chosen. And that was really interesting to see because it did result in a diverse array of different astrologers that were chosen just based on who the members wanted to see speak at a conference.
DR: That’s right.
CB: So I got in. So thanks to everybody who voted for me for that.
DR: Of course you did.
CB: Yeah. I know my friend, Kelly Surtees, also got in. But then, there was also some more established speakers that people wanted to see that also made it, so it was an interesting mixture from that. That was just the first 30, but the final tally is supposed to be like a hundred speakers or something?
CB: 90, OK.
DR: At least 90.
CB: Got it. And some of those I’m sure will be some of the ISAR regional or country directors, or other people that have applied.
DR: Right. But again, trying to make more room for everybody, and particularly diversity. In fact, Alia, one of our board members…
CB: Alia Wesala?
DR: Yes, Alia Wesala, who’s such a contributor, by the way, she gave up her speaking slot. She said, “I’m done. I’m going to give up my speaking slot,” just as an example. And we want to make sure too–it’s like, “I don’t want two. I’m just going to take one because I want somebody else to have it.” This is really our attitude.
CB: Yeah, she was the former president of the Association for Young Astrologers, and then recently in the past couple of years, joined the ISAR board.
DR: We’re happy to have her on there. We need young people on there.
CB: Nice. And I’m trying to think about anything else. Obviously, there’s going to be a financial track for that conference. There’s going to be some traditional astrologers speaking, a relationship track maybe. I guess you guys are still nailing down the tracks, right?
DR: We are, and you’ll see all of that online before too long.
CB: And hopefully, we’ll maybe some speakers and hopefully some students perhaps from China attending the conference next year?
DR: Yes, a few at least. As you know, we’re actually doing–I mentioned it–an ISAR China conference in November, late November of this year.
CB: Who’s speaking at that?
DR: We only have a few Westerners there. Most of the speakers, 80% of the speakers are Chinese, all of them graduates of our program, and 90% of them are ISAR CAPs.
DR: It is an ISAR conference.
CB: Sure. What does CAP stand for again? I forget.
DR: It stands for Certified Astrological Professional.
CB: OK, and that’s ISAR’s primary designation?
DR: That’s right.
CB: Got it.
DR: Yes, it is. That’s what the C-A-P stands for, that’s right. But we have Lynn Bell, and Aleksandar and his wife Lea coming, and then I’m going to be there. So we have four Westerners, but the rest of the workshops and lectures are all Chinese.
CB: Brilliant. Where can people find out more information about that?
DR: When we get the website up, which will be we hope within the next three or four weeks.
DR: We don’t have it up yet. They can go to nodoor.com, and it’ll be some things on there about it. We don’t have a separate website for it yet.
CB: But in the meantime, at least they can go to nodoor.com in order to find out more information about your school and your work.
DR: Of course, and about the conference, and ISAR, and all of that.
CB: Brilliant. Are there any other areas just dealing with this broad topic about the practice of Western astrology in modern China that we should have talked about today, or that we should touch on really quick before we wrap things up? We’ve covered quite a bit.
DR: I like this conversation, but I’m sure that later I’ll think, “Oh, we should have talked about that.” Let’s do this again sometime.
CB: Yeah, we’ll call this part one, and maybe we’ll say to be continued next time.
CB: Cool. Well, thanks a lot for joining me today.
DR: Thank you, Chris.
CB: All right, and thanks everybody for listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast. Thanks to the Patrons who supported it and made this episode possible. You can find out more information about subscribing to the podcast at the astrologypodcast.com/subscribe. And that’s it, so we’ll see you next time.