The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 3, titled:
The Definition of “Astrologer” with Nick Dagan Best
With Chris Brennan and Nick Dagan Best
Episode originally released on August 25th, 2012
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 Gülşen Altay
Transcription released November 7th, 2018
Copyright © 2018 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi. I am Chris Brennan and you are listening to the astrology podcast. Today is Saturday, August 25, 2012 and this is the third episode of the podcast. You can find the show at the astrologypodcast.com and you can also subscribe to us through iTunes.
My co-host today is Nick Dagan Best and our topic is the definition of the term astrologer. During the course of the show we talk a little bit about what the word astrologer means and whether it should simply be used as a professional designation or whether the term can be applied more broadly to a looser class of people so this leads us to a discussion of different issues such as professional certification, whether astrology involves any sort of belief and different things like what a person should know in order to consider themself to be an astrologer.
With that let’s get started.
Hi Nick. Welcome to the show.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Hi Chris. Thanks for having me on.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah. Thanks for joining me for my third episode. We are gonna cover a few things today but I think we will jump right into our first topic which is, recently I was working on an entry on my new website on the astrology dictionary and I was trying to define the term astrologer so I actually wanted to have a discussion with you about how you define the term astrologer because I realized that is actually potentially kind of controversial in different people perhaps define astrologer in different ways so it raises some issues like what does it take to be considered an astrologer?, or is the term astrologer as a designation restricted to only professional astrologers? What do you feel about that? Do you typically when you hear the term astrologer does that immediately invoke? or do you restricted to a professional practicing astrologer who accepts money for their services?
NICK DAGAN BEST: As a good question I think at certain points I have thought the definition centered around something pertaining to whether or not the person was professional. I am not sure if I still agree because there are a lot of people who are fully engaged in astrology and happened for years but don’t do it for a living and I think part of what I wrestle with is, the main way to earn a living as an astrologer is to give consultations.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure.
NICK DAGAN BEST: And I guess part of me always thought this way but the further I go as an astrologer the less I feel being an astrologer is really defined by that, by the fact that someone gives consultations. I think defining an astrologer as someone who gives consultations, it to me as like defining a musician as someone who performs concerts.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Right.
NICK DAGAN BEST: You know not all musicians perform concerts, some just do it at home or with their friends. Are they not musicians? No, I would say they are still musicians. They might not be professional musicians if they are not sort of charging admission and people are coming it you know paying to see them to play and that sometimes is an indicator of the quality of the musician and sometimes it is not, there are a lot of fantastic musicians who don’t make any money. I think it is that sort of, that parallel, with that in mind. I have been a professional astrologer for over a decade now and for me that is almost always meant earning my living giving consultations except for various times when I got jobs writing or things like that so but at the same time I have given consultations at something I enjoy but at something I do to sort of if you will support my own astrology habit, you know the reason I am worth to fee a charge for a reading is because I am someone who is daily engaged and immersed in the study of astrology and the observation of I am going astrological phenomenon and discoveries and that is in my mind the reason my fees worth anything to anyone in the first place, it is not because I am a professional astrologer but rather I am a professional astrologer because I am first and almost simply an astrologer, simply someone who is fully engaged in pursuing this knowledge and trying to get as much as I can add of it, I am just sort of naturally driven in that way.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay. That is a good point.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, I think it is less. I mean, I think if you would ask me 10 years ago, I think I would probably have said, ‘Yeah an astrologer is a professional, an astrologist is just someone who is an enthusiast without charging a fee.’. I am not sure if I still believe that definition but it is an interesting question.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, you raised an important point which is that you are…, it is not the actual practicing of astrology that defines you or at least the doing of consultations that defines you as an astrologer necessarily but that is just to means an end because what you do all of the time, that is what you would like to focus on or that is the particular type of expertise that you have developed in a specific field and therefore as a side almost benefit or result of that, that is why you are able to do astrological consultations professionally.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah. Exactly, exactly.
CHRIS BRENNAN: And that is important because somebody tried to raise the counterpoint, they tried to use the analogy, I think it was Ema Kurent on facebook, tried to raise the counterpoint that a psychologist or a doctor, dentist or what have you, they are specific professions that are defined within those fields and they have standards and certification that define them and you don’t call somebody like a dentist or a psychologist unless they are trained and certified in their field to be representative of that profession and she tried to say that, that is the same with astrologers.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Right. I mean, it is a good point. I think to my mind it place to some degree to this ongoing and while understandable, I would say a little unnecessary inferiority complex on the part of the astrology community generally speaking, this sort of longing to be seen alongside that the sort of the most respectable professions because, you know, the reality is where… haha… not really ranked very highly in the day to day world in terms of a respectable professions. I think you know I mean not that these are necessarily informed opinions, but reasonably widespread opinions that, you know, we are basically a step up from prostitutes or people who shine shoes or whatever, other jobs’ people tend to look down on. So…
CHRIS BRENNAN: There are (probably) some prostitutes right now that might find that remark offensive.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah. Well, my apology to the girls and boys, you know peace to all and what have you, you know I am simply stating the fact that these opinions are out there, as opposed to sort of laid down any kind of glove.
CHRIS BRENNAN: I think societally that is probably a good point, that the ranking is something like doctor, you know, firefighter, policeman, teacher, prostitute… astrologer is somewhere on the lower rank of that.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, I mean and you know frankly my passion for astrology and I think this is true for anyone who is made a choice to pursuit as far as we have and that certainly a lot of us out there, you know we have obviously shrugged off at least to some degree or at least we have made some jesters of shrugging off the aspersions that would be cast our way by either people we don’t know or even sometimes people we do know, you know I guess, suppose you know we all want respect and that is understandable but I really feel that unfortunately this is our burden to carry. I don’t apologize for being an astrologer and I am not terribly worried about whether or not someone sees me alongside you know some of those other professions, I think the definition…, I guess what is really bugging me is that we are really defining astrologer by definition of consultations and the further I go, I just feel that is not just true so much of doing astrology has zero to do with doing consultations and I am not sure, you know I never really sort of think about anyone others practice about my own but I tend to think that if you are only a consulting astrologer and not engaged in some other fashion that is sort of like doing karaoke as opposed to you know really getting up and singing with the band, you know but maybe these are simply you know my own narrow values and don’t really apply to the question.
CHRIS BRENNAN: No, I mean I think anyone who has been in the astrological community for a little while, realizes that there is a lot of people within that community who self identify as astrologers who think of themselves as astrologers but don’t necessarily even practice the subject full time professionally, that is not their primary source of income or what have you, so it does raise this question of you know ‘Are those people still astrologers if they don’t consult professionally full time or even part time for that matter?’, and I think the answer is ‘yes’.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, I think so and let’s go back to the doctor analogy, maybe we can look at it in another way. What about the doctor who has done the education, you know they are certified doctor but they don’t work professionally immediately upon getting their diploma, they run down to central America, live in a high and live as sort of you know little community doctors who may be get paid in produce and you know survive very nicely and do a lot of good but I mean they are barely professional in the definition that you offered earlier, you know is it really the dollar amount that you are getting that decides it?, you know is it not sort of simply reaching some level of proficiency with the craft?, I mean I guess that you know this always brings us back to the question of certification and may be that really is you know…, I could imagine some day in the future that we will arrive at that, you know if we do sort of over time in prove our standing in society as it were and eventually there is sort of, there is a central astrology or a national astrology be your hope that offers you know a formalized exam and you are not really called an astrologer until you have passed that exam, in the same way that you know in many states you have to have a licence to cut hair and certainly we all need a license to drive vehicles so it is not necessarily the big sort of…, I guess some people sometimes take of these exams and these certifications as being a…, the word escapes me but anyway not to digress the point being I guess that you know that the problem with defining an astrologer by virtue of the consultations as it almost does to put a dollar value on the definition.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right. Yeah and I don’t think you are digression about certification was a degression because I think that is the primary potential problem with the doctor or lawyer analogy is that within the astrological community, we don’t have any real kind of standard certification process, basically somebody becomes you know professional astrologer and starts practising it whenever they decide to it any point in their studies when they set themself up as a professional astrologer and start accepting money for doing interpretations and that is problematic because that is obviously not the way it is in another fields because you do have to have some kind of specific training and certification from a recognized body in those other fields in order to call yourself like a practicing doctor or a physician or a lawyer or what have you.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, or like I said a hairdresser or a driver of vehicles you know in a lot of ways, it is just sort of the way we tend to recognize as a society someone’s qualification if they sort of meant bare a minimum, you know the thing I will just say for my personal experience, this is I mean maybe it is just because of the way my life path has unrevealed but I would say this is also true about you, I got my sort of the certification part of my astrological education really at the beginning you know of my…, by the time I got Level I NCGR, I had been studying astrology for three years and then by the time I got the highest level, I have Level III, I have been studying for four years and now it has been 17 years that I have been studying astrology, in other words my certification in astrology at least in my case is not an indicator of how hard I have sort of worked and developed and grown over the year. It is this sort of entry level, you know sort of standard that I passed and this is not a dismiss of love it, pursuing those certification exams was tremendous education in itself, but it really just sort of got me in the front door where I could start to call myself an astrologer because you know I had done the trial if you will so when someone gets a sort of a certification you know any of the good ones after NCGR or ISAR whatever, you know it is not that you haven’t really arrived in my view, you haven’t arrived at anything except the the beginning, you know but maybe it is different in other people’s views maybe some people like really work hard for ten years before they feel they are worthy of taking the exams I don’t really know but it is seen in your life path this is generally been true, too that you really…, I mean you did really get education but it was at the beginning, it wasn’t the thing that sort of, you know it is not like a doctor it, it is an entry level sort of acknowledgement to say yeah, this person has the sort of the basic knowledge needed to begin becoming an astrologer.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, I mean I went to Kepler about three or four years into my studies sort of similar to you and I think it just…, the good thing that certification does do because I don’t feel like any of these certification that are out there, at least that are currently out there like you know NCGR, AFA or ISAR are terribly comprehensive in the same ways as if you are like a doctor, you do not programme like that…
NICK DAGAN BEST: No.
CHRIS BRENNAN:… but they do set a standard for what you should know and they light you what you don’t know. If you are still somewhat early on your studies or you are an intermediate astrologer, it can tell you the things that you should know that you perhaps don’t at that point or haven’t forced yourself to study and that I guess that what they are is useful for those, they set baseline standards of what every astrologer should know.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, I would agree fully. I would say you know any listeners out there who for whatever reason haven’t taking the exams, certainly if you haven’t taken the exams for that reason I suggested a minute ago that maybe you know you don’t feel you are worthy or ready or what have you, I would say throw yourself into it, you know it is the thing to do sort of early on in your study to you know get you up to scratch and indeed just like you said Chris, it teaches you the stuff that you don’t know but should
CHRIS BRENNAN: Well. Yeah, I should step back for a second because I don’t want to fully endorse them because I have some major problems with these certifications because on the other hand, just because somebody is certified as you know NCGR Level whatever astrologer AFA or ISAR what have you that doesn’t make them a good astrologer and doesn’t make them terribly knowledgeable about the subject or …
NICK DAGAN BEST: No, that is sort of what I was getting at, at the beginning that it is an entry level acknowledgement you know, it is a no way and again this is in a put down if you have a problem with it, that is fine but this is in a put down. I think it is good for what it is, it is this sort of entry level, ring a fire that you pass, you just make sure you sort of aware of the sort of the baseline knowledge behind astrology but yeah, it is elementary and you know I think that is fine for what it is but indeed it by no mean suggest that you are some kind of expert or qualified really to do anything other than you know keep working at learning and studying and investigating and thinking and whatever it is that you are doing in pursuing astrology.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Okay, so that brings us back to our original issue which is that even if you know certification is not required to become an astrologer, basically at some point in a person’s studies they get to the point where they feel like they know enough that they start reading charts for people and sometimes they start charging for it and some people slowly make it transition into being a professional or practising astrologer at that point but even that is a bit problematic because nobody ever really knows where the transition and it is always kind of…, it seems like a lot of that more introspective and intelligent and somewhat thoughtful astrologers sometimes I have noticed there is this phenomenon will take a little bit longer to transition into that point whereas there is some people who after just like a few months of study or year, they will just like jump in and start reading people’s charts even if they are not that good. That is one of the drop back, that is one of the problems with their lack of standardized certification right now.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, I mean it is sort of…, the astrology market is a sort of Wild West, you know in terms of the business world.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure.
NICK DAGAN BEST: I think it is just its part and parcel with where astrology is at this point in history you know, it is largely forgot knowledge that were still in the process of reservecting and rediscovering and while we have learned a lot about it you know over the past century since people have started to, you know really in large numbers started to look at it again, you know we are not just far along enough I think as a practice as unified practice that sort of demand you know that things be sort of centralized you know the way, say there is a you know international board of medicine or whatever that you know, those level of standard should be there but we don’t know what they are yet, you know this work is a mystery you know, was no getting around that I think and because of that, you know the fact that people can go out there and say you know anyone can call themselves an astrologer, anyone can make a business card, they read a couple of books or maybe they read one book and they go out and they start giving reading Zaibert stories like that you know, I have one story I remember very well I have someone who really knew very little and was giving very dougie sounding astrology readings, these things happen and we don’t have a lot of records, unfortunately you know I can’t think of a single thing to do to counteract that, that kind of thing other than to sort of go out and be the best astrologer you could be you know to add balance to the other side, to be good, to be professional and there goes that word again after I dismissed it earlier…
CHRIS BRENNAN: I mean it is a…,
NICK DAGAN BEST: …but that really is it, it is the wild west, it is not fair, there is a dougie element to it, trying to address that in a really sort of straight forward or definitive way would probably pose more problems than solve anything but at the same time I mean this is a field that is growing, you know I get a sense that the quality of astrology out there today, is much higher than it was at 30 years ago. I do have an optimism generally speaking in terms of where everything is going, we may or may not see at an our life time, Chris but that is not really what is fundamentally important, you know if 50 years from now, 100 years from now or what have you, astrology has arrived you know at a sort of a level, it becomes a level of knowledge that we would that society equates to say medical knowledge rather scientific knowledge or expertise, you know then certainly it would not be easy for you know that kind of charlatanism or at least you know theoretically it should not be easy, of course there are people who still go out and pretend to be doctors and they don’t always catch those people, maybe it is never perfect.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Well I guess just to wrap up this section, this is what I am still playing with this, I am still working on this definition of how to define an astrologer, I ended up trying to come up with three points that I thought that most astrologers I knew fit and that this would be a broad enough definition to cover both most professional and most amateur astrologers or at least astrologers who don’t charge money for their services, these are three criteria, the first one is that the person…, this is what makes a person astrologer, a person is an astrologer if; one they quote unquote believe in that astrology is a legitimate phenomenon that it works, they believe that astrology works or conversely you might phrase that in differently say that they have observed that astrology works; two that the person has some level of familiarity with the technics of astrology beyond with most people in society would commonly know about the subject so this person knows more than just sun signs, they have some basic or more than basic grasp of the subject and basic components of it whatever tradition it is that they study; and three that they use their quote unquote belief and the validity of the subject as well as their familiarity with the techniques to actively incorporate astrology into their life in someway on their own either on a daily basis or more sporadically so those are the three points that is like broad three pieces of criteria that I thought you could use to define someone as an astrologer versus somebody that is not an astrologer because somebody that is not an astrologer, there is at least one of these that they are not gonna fit into that category.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Right.
CHRIS BRENNAN: What do you think of that?
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, I think that is good a step to you know wrestle this slippery fish as anyone is gonna do because yeah it is tricky but I couldn’t do any better, I will say that so I guess that is an approval of it in of itself.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Okay. Well, maybe will set on that is alternative definition of astrologer if anyone wants to argue with us or provide any counterpoints or other perspectives or opinions they can post in the comment section on the website. I guess the last point is even once establish you that you still have division between what we might call professional astrologer who practices astrology professionally versus maybe an amateur astrologer although some people might not like that term.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Well, you know that is actually what is ironic about all this because our distant cousins the astronomers, the professionals in that field would be the first to tell you that they would have forgotten so far certainly over past couple of decades without the hoards of amateur astronomers who make actually most of the really big discoveries you know, the professional astronomers at once who have jobs, you know operating the big telescopes and what have you but there are lots of qualified but not paid amateur astronomers, qualified of not in certification at the very least you know in knowledge and self study and they have made a huge contribution to their field and they are not the private of the term astronomer, even their professional counterparts would not dare, you know deny them that it is simply you are either a professional astronomer or an amateur astronomer and an amateur does not mean that you sack it what you do, it means you do out of row instead of money so you know I think unfortunately the word amateur just sort of rings badly to some people, some people just immediately associate it with a negative connotation when really there is nothing about being an amateur whatsoever and maybe we are to take a page from our you know good old distant cousins the astronomer and simply sort of alive at the definition that way which is you know really sort of, perhaps the only really crucial part of the definition that we need to worry about if you are professionals because you charge a fee for consultations, if you are amateur it is out of it because you give readings for free or you know you are just a mundane astrologer whose strictly engaged in none consultation type of astrological work of which there is much obvient not terribly lucrative
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right or it is just not your primary vocation because…
NICK DAGAN BEST: Right, right.
CHRIS BRENNAN: … astrologers not a lucrative position at something you do because you really into astrology and you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else, it is not something you really get into usually to try make a living.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Exactly, exactly. Anyone who would get into astrology with the thought that it was lucrative is really misguided and that is the thing I mean it can be lucrative, certainly some people have done very well with it, it has potential in that way but no matter how far I go as a professional, I always want to be an amateur you know it would be terrible to only be a professional astrologer and not be an amateur one as well and of course while that the two terms are generally thought to be mutually exclusive, I think you know what I mean, no matter what I do, what astrology to you know support myself, I certainly always want to be also doing things that I am just doing because I love them.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Because that is you know part of the reason I got into it in first place.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, I mean that is one of the distinctions that I usually see like when I have to ask the question like we have a mutual friend, I always had a question that ‘Is this person an astrologer?’, ‘Is his primary interest elsewhere?’, and the ultimate question always came down to for me was you know ‘Will this person meet somebody new and wanna look at their chart?, or ‘Does this person just cast charts for events that they recently heard about or for things just for love of doing it, for love of astrology?’, that is usually the dividing line for me for most astrologers and it is not necessarily just wanting to do or actually doing charts professionally because I do know of some astrologers who still are astrologers but who have retired from doing like natal consultations for example. I think Nick Campion for example I thought heard a few years ago that he retired from doing natal consultations and I don’t think that makes him any less of an astrologer, he just doesn’t you know that is work for him and he doesn’t necessarily like doing it for work.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah. Of course in Nick’s case he does drive income related to his astrology work in other venues as a teacher, as an author and things like that so I think that you know even if we were gonna go with that sort of definition that we tried to discard early on that an astrologer is really someone who does consultations for a living or uses astrology to make a living, Nick still lines up you know under even that sort of rather narrow and not terribly substantial definition.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right. Sure. Okay, well the last point on this subject is the dreaded term astrologist which came up when I was trying to define astrologer because this term, it kind of gets a bad rap, astrologist and because there is a discussion about this on facebook recently and there are a lot of opinions but it seem like there was a general consensus that astrologers generally don’t like to be called astrologist that the term astrologer is the preferred designation and therefore sometimes when somebody uses the term astrologist that is usually one of two people or people at following one of two categories either outsiders they don’t know any better or people who are just getting into the field and also don’t know any better so that the commonality is that usually, it is people who don’t realize that the preferred designation is astrologer and because that is a preferred designation, sometimes astrologers look upon it kind of negatively for some reason.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Right. I mention the word astrologist earlier because like I said years ago that might have been the term I would have used for anyone who do not earn a living with astrology but it was just sort of an enthusiast…
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure
NICK DAGAN BEST: …and like I said, I have shed that definition and not entirely sure what to make of astrologist at this point. I think the thing that bugs me about the word is the “-ist” because where there is an “-ist”, there is an “-ism” …
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right.
NICK DAGAN BEST: …and I think that is what sort of ……. the term is the implication that I mean if you are an astrologist, advocating astrologism. It is sort of that, it implies that you are a zelide or you know what is the word?, that an evangelist, an astrological evangelist or something.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right.
NICK DAGAN BEST: You know it sort of and I don’t mean to say that, that is what the word means but even just if I am being honest about my reaction to it, that is what I get out of it but I would also has to do I think with my feelings about “-ism” words generally speaking and their application in global society but that is a whole other matter.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure
NICK DAGAN BEST: You know astrologism I think it implies something ideological and that is certainly is nothing you know I mean the only ideology I can take of that I have about astrology is that I guess I feel a responsibility to investigate it honestly and if that is astrologism, okay so be it but I think you know I mean as it is that astrology is something that very very belongs to everyone and yet you know even in the legs of the devil reversed, we have a really broad variety of perspectives and definitions of what astrology is and how it works etc, etc. which is certainly something that is not gonna change too soon so who is to say, you know I mean one person’s astrology is someone’s astrologism I guess and you know ……… de référence
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Well, I think at the very least we can say there is a general consensus that astrologist is not the preferred term and there is a little bit of a negative view or connotation with it for most astrologers you might be able to rehabilitated because it kind of arrives with enthusiast and apply astrologist to I guess amateur astrologers as astrological enthusiast but even that because of the negative connotations sometimes that astrologers ascribe to astrologist might even cause some problems.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, I mean it is not a big deal. If someone says you are an your astrologist, I usually just presume okay this is someone who doesn’t know so much about the field and why should they?, it is a rather obscure field, you know you might learn a little macrocosm, you know we might feel like we are above the word but really you know amongst the hoi -polloi, it is no sin you know and it is generally not something that. Yeah, it is not a term I like that much but it is not like I feel offended you know if someone uses it with me. Yeah, like I said I just presume that okay they don’t know much and you know so what?
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Okay, so if you want to make an astrologer wends just introduce yourself as an astrologist.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yes. If you have some astrologers front that is annoying you and you wanna get back at them.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Just keep referring to them as an astrologist.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay.
NICK DAGAN BEST: It will work.
CHRIS BRENNAN: One of the things that we are just talking about when it came to astrologer versus astrologist is you know whether there is belief involved, whether astrology is some sort of “-ism” like astrologism I think is the term that you use, do you think that astrology involves…, I got a little bit a flug in my definition on the astrology dictionary the other day for saying using the term belief and saying that the first piece of criteria was that the an astrologer somebody who quote unquote believes that astrology is the legitimate phenomenon or believes that astrology works and that I got some flug for using the word belief there but I sort of try to defend a little bit but what do you think about that?, do you think does astrology involve belief either in a broad or narrow sense?
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, it is funny for me because I have this sort of major reaction to the word belief. First of all I think it is important to state one thing, the word belief is we used in the English language has a few definitions. Right?, sometimes we used the word belief in terms of I have a conviction about something that I have no means of proving, you know which I think is the one we all sort of think of and probably is the one that implies most to astrology, there is another sort of definition of the word belief we use which is, it is an indication of our values you know ‘I believe in affordable healthcare to everyone’ or something like that so the first prompt I have the word belief is always wandering into that quote mark. I will say this when I discovered astrology eight years ago, I was someone who up until that point I had no religious background whatsoever, a very comfortable agnostic and I would say agnostic is opposed to atheist simply because I didn’t even think about the question of whether or not there was a God, I was that sort of removed from the whole thing that you know it never even occurred to me like spend some time to really think about the problem and decide I was an atheist, you know it was that is why I would say I was an agnostic and what triggered which changed in my outlook when I discovered astrology is it certainly seem that the universe was a lot more connected and organized and intelligent than I have previously thought, than I have previously assumed. I had a sort of modern view of nature of being everything is run in way random, you know sure there is a lot of amazing things in nature you know from a juicy tomato of the line to a beautiful orchid or things like that but these are just you know amazing freaks of nature, accidents that you know there is no serve intelligence behind them, can front what astrology, okay ‘no’ that you know the solar system is somehow telling me things about my life and that is not something I expected to happen, there is that make me a believer. I use the word conviction. I think I am so apprehensive about the word belief because it implies that you know you have a conviction about something that is a matter of faith.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right.
NICK DAGAN BEST: And I think that is the key thing is my…, you know I don’t wanna place faith in astrology. If it sort of you know I wanna treat it roughly, I wanna challenge it everyday, I don’t wanna have faith in astrology and incidentally this is not a threat to astrology, astrology is perfectly capable of what is standing whatever doubts and challenges, ………… compose to it. I guess the conviction I have about astrology is that this is something that is part of the natural world, it is just something about the natural world that we haven’t really figured it out yet, it is always important I mean I believe in the scientific method but that doesn’t mean I am gonna believe you know everything that science is currently telling me about the world because it is a work in progress. There are two kinds of science, there are the things we have already know about nature, there are the things we have not yet figured out and I would say that is what astrology is, is something that we are getting some indication about, you know we know somethings and they are certainly is a tradition, there is some indications of people used to know things that we have since forgotten but you know that is what I am left holding and anything I do in sort of pursuing my investigation of astrology, I guess is always with that one sort of thought in mind is that I am part of a crew of curious investigators who are you know in the process of unearthing, this piece of knowledge that conservatively be very useful to humanity down the road or I mean at least that is my presumption that can be a dangerous one that people have made in the past about certain things but you know that is really it, I have a certain conviction maybe I am just sort of letting myself off the hook too easily, you know maybe I am a believer but I certainly don’t wanna things …..
CHRIS BRENNAN: Well, I mean that the distinction is that if we are defining belief as you know aligned to it faith or as you know an umbrella term or synonym it for faith and the issue is when people invoke belief, they invoke it you know as something you have to take as a matter of faith like if they are something in the bible that says you know the world was created in seven days and you have to take that this as a matter of faith or what have you.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Belief if it is not doctrine, I mean let’s like even just you know having faith that you know being a good upstanding moral human being over the course of one’s life is a guarantee of some sort of you know future reward in the afterlife, you know something really sort of, yeah you know beyond dogma sort of you know a state of being, a state of executing one’s life with this sort of this presumption that sort of late on, I don’t know where I am going with this but yeah, there is..
CHRIS BRENNAN: Well, I can see why astrologers do not like the term belief for that reason and it is primarily for this reason because they feel that they have been empirically verify and validate astrology and validate there is a correlation between celestial and earthly events and by validating that they feel that it is not correct to simply frame it as a matter of faith.
NICK DAGAN BEST: For the time being of course the outside world equates our discoveries to the people who find images of jesus on toast but I mean that is you know I would certainly not support that view but that is what we are wrestling with, you know and this touches on what I was talking about earlier in terms of that sort of the understandable but really unnecessary inferiority complex, you know held by a good menu in the community and I have supposed that I have to cope to it at certain times by myself too but really that is a…, yeah I would not characterize anything I am doing as being based on faith but I think I would sort of half to just silently shrug off any accusation from outside that you know that is precisely what I am engaged in.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure and yeah, I mean it is the empirical aspect I guess of astrology that leads astrologers to say it is not a matter of belief. I guess the point where I guess you could make the argument for some level of belief is that the person has developed the belief that there is a correlation between celestial and earthly events because they have perceived or they feel that they have been able to validate that empirically in their own lives whereas they are not just reading it from a book that you know Mercury Mars transits coincide with arguments and they just take that for granted like they go out and they check and they have experiences and they observe and see if that is true and if it is true they feel it has been validated you know happens and then they don’t see a correlation and they say that is pocus.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Again I mean to play ha ha ha devil’s advocate. I think to an outside thinker our making that kind of claim is gonna sound similar to someone whose absolutely certain that God has been speaking to them directly in their thoughts and telling them to go and commit either a great or heinous deeds. In other words you know we have to have work that validates astrology not just for ourselves personally which I can certainly test and I am sure anyone listening and I can test you know it can be very meaningful discoveries on a personal level but we have to be able to show astrology to the world in order for it to not be thought of it is a matter of faith.
I do take this is possible. I mean frankly it is come to the point Chris where I actually I hope that this is all wrong, there is a part of me that hopes that the sceptics are right, that we are all diluted, that we are just making this up, that is just in our heads, that is just you know a sort of a naughty belief system because with the kind of work that I have uncovered, if this is all part of my imagination that would only mean that I have got an incredible imagination and that would be if more pleasing more glorifying and even you know I come from place that offers very lucrative art grants, it could even be more lucrative, if this is all a sort of a faith belief thing for me as opposed to what I think I am doing which is a serious sort of empirical study of a natural phenomenon.
I am kind of you know I have positioned myself in a win-win situation where you know even if you know the big “if”, if we are all diluted, if they are right, if this is just a lot of nonsense that we are all engaged in and I am really not just speaking for myself, I mean I do feel about what I am doing specifically but what we are all doing, you know if this is a mass delusion it is even more amazing than the sort of the more ho ha mundane thought that no, this is just you know we are just like any other department of knowledge where we are just sort of you know slowly gradually discovering something about a part of nature, you know we are just like the people studying the bamboo bees or you know weather patterns or anything like that, you know that sort of that the end of the day it is the grim reality you know whereas the thought that we are like sort of this community of connected creative artist who are collectively sort of putting together this amazing of outlandish claim about our solar system and how it reflects life on earth , you know that is something even more amazing to me than you know what I actually think astrology is and I think that is really the way I would encourage, not that I never wanna tell other people how to see astrology for themselves but if they are sort of you know overcome sometimes with these defensive feelings about what we do and what people may say about what we do, you know comfort yourself that you know what if your critics are right, then you are even more amazing and if they are wrong which you know I will still say that they are…
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure
NICK DAGAN BEST: … you know it is really…, maybe I have made a convenient for myself but why not?
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure. Well, Yeah. I mean I guess the issue of belief definitely comes up when it comes to the issue of scientific validation and their current status of astrology when it comes to science in so much is not really done a very good job of validating itself especially statistically true, statistical studies as well as other types of studies and as a result of that because science or at least scientific studies in a scientific method is usually is currently used as the sort of litmus test for determining what is real? and what is not real?, what is actually happening in reality?, but in contemporary society that astrology is lack of that does put astrologers in a weird place where…
NICK DAGAN BEST: Right.
CHRIS BRENNAN: … you know you have to say somebody could…, like a scientist could legitimately posed a question like because astrology has not been validated scientifically ‘How can you still believe that, there is anything to do it.?’, and that would be a valid question, at which point the person’s personal experience of course is still invoked ,which one could easily trying to say that, that is not valid that your personal experience must be wrong…
NICK DAGAN BEST: Sure.
CHRIS BRENNAN: …but the astrologer’s defence is that could go either way. It is not necessarily true that all astrologers are just suffering from some sort of mass delusion when they notice or when they see patterns or correlations between celestial and earthly events and I guess one of my problems with the current state of scientific research and astrology is a) the lack of standardization in the field has let it so that the test seem to be all over the place about whose conducting them and what methods they are using and you know what the state of the knowledge was of the astrologer who are participating in them and I wonder, I mean that is still a question I have recently been rereading some of the books that trying to wrestle with these question of the status of astrology with respect to science and how some astrologers answer that question but there might be too far with digression for another show.
NICK DAGAN BEST: It might be for another show although I think that you know the thing about science, the thing to remember is again the sort of the inferiority complex that we have regarding that question, the word of science within itself is really cut through, you know even this serious you know the biologist and meteorologist and geologist have gotten into massive massive sort of fights and careers rule and people’s life and work trash in overtime the reason I guess, I believe in the method is, it is self correcting at some point the truth surfaces. I think the thing is that it takes time.There is work that we might be doing now that you know might not be acknowledged while we are still here but then 70 years from now someone writes a paper says you know actually these people were really onto something and you know at last they died eating dog food because no one believed them but so because…, you know that might be the thing but at the end of the day the system does work, that is why you know I would love to live to see some kind of vindication for astrology but I have realized that it is more important to simply be participating and its eventual vindication rather than sort of feel affronted because I have not personally been as yet party to such in the currence, like I said my fully conviction I have about astrology is that is part of the natural world and if it is part of the natural world that means, you know there is a science to it and I don’t know maybe there really are some things that human beings just can never ever ever figure out, maybe there are limitations but so far you know what we are doing pretty well in surprising yourself in terms of the things that we discover about life and the universe. I have seen enough and this isn’t just about my chart is you know I am a very engaged mundane astrologer and I have compiled a lot of evidence that could have been compiled until you know the 24th century we had technology to do it so I have seen enough that you know my conviction that there is a science behind it somewhere is pretty strong and it is the same kind of conviction that a lot of working scientist have had and supporting their work when they still how to defend it, there is really this no shame, we are just all victims of history and so we happened to come into this you know this work at a time when it still requires a lot of you know cold blooded sort of resolute dedication you know, it is not up to us to be rewarded or feel gratified for having done astrology service, you know this is a someday the work we are doing is gonna be useful to someone you know, those of us who are really working towards finding out what the hex is going on with this thing you know.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah. I mean, definitely sort of Copernicus mythology or archetype I guess you wanna call that is definitely a very prominent story in the astrological community, not story like mindset in the astrological community of like we have discovered this really interesting property of nature and hopefully at some point it will be vindicated. I mean I sometimes questioned that but I think ultimately most astrologers hold that position and it is probably a valid one because if there is anything to astrology like if astrology is a valid phenomenon that exist in nature then it does have some really interesting implications about almost every aspect of our culture and of science and nature and the quality in nature of time and like properties of time itself so it is definitely a lot of things that it brings up.
NICK DAGAN BEST: A lot of stuff indeed.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Let’s transition in the last part of this, just to talk about, sort of round out the show by talking about what are some basic things that you think that a person should know in order to consider themselves astrologer like what are the basic things that a person should know?, or maybe let’s say basic but like if a person was to have a well-rounded broad basis as an astrologer like what would that consists of?, I mean one of the things for example I would mention right away simply the…, and I think you would appreciate it, is the ability to read and understand an ephemeris and to be very conversant on how to you use an ephemeris.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, definitely and also to sort of thing in ephemeris terms, I would say and this is sort of a personal soapbox of mine but the analogy I would use in this cases the difference between photography and cinema or you know at least the difference between style images and moving images. A lot of astrologer sort of stopped at a style image perspective of when they are looking at an astrology chart. In other words they are just sort of looking at a given chart in a sort of abstract frozen in time kind of thing, there is a slight over emphasis on the symbolism behind the planets and another large under emphasis on the knowledge that these bodies are all in motion and that is understanding the nature of their motion, not the nature but the sort of the bigger picture about their motion, what their cycles are, where they have just come from, where are they going?, you know not just that someone might have Mars at 15 degrees Scorpio but you know when did it last go retrograde?, when did it last make a conjunction to Saturn or an opposition to the sign? or what have you, it is really sort of trying to understand an astrological chart in a sort of kinetic context as opposed to a fixed one.
CHRIS BRENNAN: It is you mention that Bruce Scofield the other…, a couple weeks ago when I tried to define the term birth chart we are talking about terminology we use and whether or not it should be descriptive and he said that if the term birth chart was descriptive we should call it time slice because it is actually…
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yes.
CHRIS BRENNAN: … what it is and that is what you are talking about perfectly.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, I mean, leave it to Bruce to say it like it is. Yeah, that is exactly what it is, it is a time slice, you know if the history of time…, if time was a gigantic sausage then you are talking about this thin little sliver of salami that you slice that in the middle of it you know.
CHRIS BRENNAN: … that is the birth chart
NICK DAGAN BEST: That is the birth chart, yeah.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Whatever chart you have cast?
NICK DAGAN BEST: Exactly, whatever chart you have cast so you know it is understanding that slice comes from a continue on and you wanna understand what you can about the continue on as much as you want to sort of look at the slice and contemplated in its own right and that, that is not valid, I mean a big part of what we do is taking that one little slice and analyzing it and certainly you know the symbolism I talked about a second ago is really important part of that but there is just…, there is broader thing, it is understanding the dynamic of these bodies and their history and their future and by future I mean that you know where they seem to be going.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure.
NICK DAGAN BEST: How we can plot their course.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Looking at a birth chart not just as a static slice of time but as a part of a continue on.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, I would say that is you know…, it is not like that is the most fundamental piece of knowledge of any astrologer should have but it would be my contention that there is you know that is sort of an underemphasized but very crucial element about astrological knowledge that you know is important to hold on.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure, so familiarity with planetary cycles, how to you use an ephemeris, familiarity with retrograde periods and …
NICK DAGAN BEST: If you are familiar with cycles then you know about the retrograde periods that sort of, I would say that is part of it, it certainly understanding the cycles which comes into the retrogrades and the superior conjunctions for the inner planets and all that stuff.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, the ephemeris and knowing the ephemeris is you know part and parcel again with understanding, you know this is all coming into one big rule in other words.
CHRIS BRENNAN: The ephemeris is the central point.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, because the ephemeris is the thing that will teach you about what I am talking about.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right, because the ephemeris incorporates the planets and incorporates the zodiac and it incorporates aspects or doctrine of the configurations and there is the only one it is missing is the fourth branch which is the doctrine of houses.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, the good old houses.
CHRIS BRENNAN: I guess although that makes sense because the houses are tied directly into that time slice because you can only have the houses once you are at a snapshot in time.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah and to me the houses come into the …, you know the houses are something that they are a symbolic construction so it is a next layer of using astrology, is not the first layer which is just sort of knowing that the planets what they are doing outside of a given horoscope so that you know and again I am trying to address what I consider an underemphasis, not to sort of be little something that I think is overemphasized but just to sort of point out that is only you know one part of knowledge that is being pursuit at the expense of another…
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure.
NICK DAGAN BEST: …you know anyone who gets into astrology you know looks at a chart and learns about trines and learns about the elements and the modes and you know all that basic stuff, I mean that is what we all learn and so you know why I would say that is all necessary knowledge, I don’t feel compelled in anyway that sort of encourage like ‘Yeah, make sure you learn that there are fire, earth, air and water signs.’ because you know that is gonna happen…
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right.
NICK DAGAN BEST: …so that is why I am sort of emphasizing this other part of, why I would consider really basic astrological knowledge that maybe is in treated like it is basic or you know isn’t regardless.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay, basic basic is, know your fourfold system of planets, signs, houses and aspects, ideally speaking an astrologer, let’s talk about the ideal astrologer, the ideal astrologer for me has like this broad depth of understanding in a number of different fields that crosses history, philosophy, sociology, politics…
NICK DAGAN BEST: …etymology
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right
NICK DAGAN BEST: You know because there is a strong indication and you probably know more about this than I do but what always fascinated me about the ancient material is the idea that the terminology comes directly you know very consciously from a language that you know had a meeting of its own that every word sort of drives from you know a language that was actually sort of spoken by the people who are put in the whole thing together so I think you know that is an amazing part of the whole thing.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah, and I think that is opinion that you always had that I thought was interesting that the best astrologer is actually somebody who is not terribly well-versed in astrology but who is like an expert in some other field like biographies or history or what have you.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, because astrology you know touches, astrology is about life, it is about human life, it is probably even about that are things beyond the human life but at least you know, let’s think small here and just take humanity at large and when it comes to humanity at large then yeah, astrology is something that is going to talk about a collective history and therefore you know you can be a music enthusiast or a history of science enthusiast or political enthusiast and all of these subjects offer enormous potential to discover astrology, I think the thing that I have said to you a number of people be force I point to my bookshelf full of biographies and history books and I say these are all astrology books, every single newspaper you read can be an astrology book, every TV broadcast offer some kind of astrological lesson, you know and it really is, you know it is not going too far to say so, it is something that we can see in every sort of facet of life and to restrict astrology to any sort of very installer perspective, I think is doing a great injustice.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Right, because essentially the point is that every story has something to teach you if you pay attention to the astrology of it that every unique situation if you cast a chart for that or if you pay attention what the transits were coincided with it then you can learn something new about astrology.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Okay. Well, I think that brings us to about the end of this show so that actually transitions into you are actually…, what you are doing is right now is trying to finish a book where you basically summarize a huge research project you have been doing on the planet Uranus. Right?
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah. I am preparing to really launch my publishing career fully and earnestly even though as you know I am an astrologer who is really very focused on the visible planets especially Venus and Mars but I am doing my first book on Uranus mainly really that the book is about Uranus-Uranus is sort of the Pythagoras that the book but the book is really about the tropical zodiac and Uranus is just the means I am using to broad the subject of the tropical zodiac and what I think it is, what I think I can demonstrate it is in the context of astrology so it is interesting in that way. I am planning these two series of books; one series of books about the outer planets, in other words I plan eventually doing a whatsapp Neptune and a whatsapp Pluto after this one whatsapp Uranus.
CHRIS BRENNAN: The titles of the same ring to it.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Well, it is part of a series and I like it. It is a I am invoking Bugs Bunny, a great American and that the outer planet books are sort of one series and then the visible planet books will be another series and they are two sets of challenges. The outer planet books are really a challenge to the astrological community because the Uranus book just like the other books will be, the Uranus book is a basically accomplishing of short stories about the lives of somewhere between 200-300 I haven’t totally finished data in the book but it can be as many as 300 famous people and what their Uranus transits were like and I am looking at Uranus conjunctions or oppositions to the Sun and Moon and basically it is a challenge to the astrological world because we are used…, well, I do feel modern astrologers are pretty adapted using the outer planets, there are little to attach the key words and I think you know if you are suddenly confronted with 300 samples of Uranus transits in one shot, you sort of realized that a list of 12 or 20 key words isn’t really gonna get where you need to go in terms of understanding what is going on with that body so that is that book and then the books about the visible planets certainly the ones about Venus and Mars are gonna be my challenges to the sceptic community because they really it is a bit creepy the amount of detail you can put into talking about these cycles and how much history you can put in there, it starts to become overwhelming.
CHRIS BRENNAN: You are primarily dealing with recurrence transits of the eight year period of Venus and the 15 year period of Mars.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah. Exactly, exactly.
CHRIS BRENNAN: What you are demonstrating is that in individual biographies that there are some people that are really tied into those cycles and that those reputation show, reputations in events or connections in their life every eight or 15 years.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Exactly there is that part to it and then there is also the national histories because I can also sort of you know used the Venus cycle for instance to talk about the history of the II World War or I can even use Venus cycles to talk about the history of the British Monarchy or you know even Russian history in a really broad sense going from the Tsars era to the Soviet era to the Modern Republic era so there is a lot of…, there is sort of political and geopolitical stories that I can putting into those books that I think at least one of the most compelling arguments for the validity of astrology that you know I can think of, of course it is easy for me to say I am the guy doing the work but it definitely is a new kind of godlet to through down so I look forward to getting on with those but I thought that should start with the Uranus one because it introduces the central character, the big thing that the tropical zodiac, the thing that they keep just like they did, remember about a year and half ago they tried to hit us with it again, the big story that they have discovered the 13 sign and something keeps surfacing every a few years of people get forgetting so you know I wanted to put out something sort of address that and anyone who is going to sort of read future books arrived an idea of what I am doing with that basic frame, the tropical zodiac.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah and I think that is actually…, I don’t think that is just subjective on your part but that probably is the best way to objectively demonstrate that there is something going on with astrology is through timing of events through specific cycles that have fixed periods and very fixed reputations because that is an completely different lig than some sort of symbolic interpretation of when you know this planet Mars is on the Descendant because it represents strife that it indicates strife in a person’s relationships like that, that is so much different level than almost and what you are doing where you are showing,you know the most important events in a person’s life happening every eight years in accordance with a specific planetary cycle or what have you.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yeah, yeah and at the end of the day it really is the volume of material that contributes to this being considered significant. I mean you know that the thing that will always here from sceptics is where is the evidence? Well you know before you have the evidence you need … Well before actually don’t say where is the proof?, where is the evidence? Well before you have proof you need evidence, before you have the evidence you need to have you know a lot of observations, you need to have sort of that the network put in and that is what I am offering here is a tremendous amount of data that at least you know raises the question, what is going on here just how random can this be? It is difficult to explain without sort of going through all the examples but the master of the book is gonna be for, but yeah, I look forward to going through, you know getting on with that as soon as the Uranus is then which should be very soon.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Yeah and I think we will come back and discuss some of this in a separate show at some point in the future. In the meantime it looks like you are speaking at the SOTA Conference later this year.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Yes, October, I forgot with the exact date, what is it October 10th or October seventh?, terribly ….. not be prepared but look it up it is the State of the Art Conference, happening in Niagara Falls, New York, certainly it is gonna be in October 2012, certainly I am special to be there and give a talk on Uranus transits and I hope to see you there.
And I am also…, I have got other plans but we will talk about them in another show I guess.
CHRIS BRENNAN: Sure, looks like the State of the Art, SOTA Conference is October 18-21 in Niagara Falls, New York. I hope some people will be able to visit you there.
I guess that is it for this show. Thanks for coming on to talk to me about what the definition of the term astrologer is and I think I will definitely do this again in some time and hopefully we will back to co-host future shows.
NICK DAGAN BEST: Anytime Chris. Thanks for having me.
CHRIS BRENNAN: All right. That is it for this episode of the astrologypodcast. If you enjoyed the show then please subscribe to us either on facebook, you can follow us on twitter or you can subscribe via iTunes or we even have an email subscription form that you can sign up to receive an email each time new shows are posted. If you enjoyed the show then definitely please go to iTunes and give us a good rating and I think that is it for this episode
Thanks for listening and I hope to see you again next time.