The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 65, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Maurice Fernandez
Episode originally released on February 27, 2016
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Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released November 14, 2022
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CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. We’re recording this episode on Thursday, February 25, 2016, just after 1:00 PM in Denver, Colorado, and this is the 65th episode of the show. For more information about how to subscribe to the podcast and help support the production of future episodes while getting some great subscriber benefits, please visit TheAstrologyPodcast.com/subscribe. In this episode, I’m gonna be talking with astrologer Maurice Fernandez, who’s president of the Organization for Professional Astrology, about the new book that his group recently published, titled The Professional Astrologer: Building a Successful Astrology Practice. So let’s get started by welcoming my guest. Hi, Maurice. Welcome to the show.
MAURICE FERNANDEZ: Hello. Thank you for having me.
CB: Excellent. Well, I think you’re one of the first presidents of a national astrological organization that I’ve interviewed so far. So thanks for coming on the show. I’m excited to interview you. So let’s start by talking a little bit about your organization and the organization that you’re a part of, which is called the Organization for Professional Astrology. Could you give us some background on that organization and sort of how it originated and what it’s about?
MF: Sure. This is an organization that started as a special interest group from the NCGR. At the time Bob Mulligan and Monica Dimino and other people really felt that there was a need to create a group that would address the issues that professional astrologers are faced with, and among them was to create a peer group dynamic so that there were would be stronger support system for astrologers. And that evolved into, you know, an organization of its own—it’s own entity. And it was incorporated in the year 2000. So it’s been around for more than 15 years now. We’re basically offering programs and support for both people who are practicing astrology, as well as, you know, students and people who are just interested. So it really is not only for professional astrologers. The name sometimes is misleading this way. It’s for anyone who’s interested in this field.
CB: Sure. And that makes sense. And it seems like there was a need for something like that because many of the other organizations that were formed in the ‘70s seemed like they were more oriented towards research, whereas your orientation is more towards the actual practice of doing astrology or of giving consultations. And a lot of that focus is on the peer group work and breaking out into small groups in order to do interpretations in front of each other and receive feedback, as well as other things, like being able to talk about difficult client charts and things like that, right?
MF: Exactly. Well, what we know is each one of us—both of us here at least—is practicing astrology, and we know how easy it is to be isolated. Even though we have conferences and, you know, we meet at these bigger events, we tend to really, you know, spin in our own orbits as astrologers because astrology in itself is a field, is a profession that is not well-integrated into the mainstream. So people who usually make it as professional astrologers are very independent thinkers and the tendency is to really do their own thing and follow their own course. So OPA basically identified a need to bring astrologers together.
And as you were describing, one of the programs we offer is specifically for professionals where professionals will come and meet in small groups of four people and they discuss their practice, including, you know, the style of analysis and chart analysis, or any kind of problems they’re facing with clients, and professional dilemmas, and then they share their vision through some kind of a business plan or whatever ambitions they have for themselves. And in the small group interaction there’s a way to get feedback, there’s a way to learn about each other, and, you know, to think about things that we’re not necessarily accessing on our own. So I think it serves a wonderful purpose.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And, for me, seeing part of the process last June—as part of the OPA retreat track leaders peer group work—I was really surprised by how different that was because usually when astrologers go to conferences or to workshops, it’s more a presentation of the techniques and the practice of astrology conceptually or theoretically or with chart examples that are predetermined most of the time. But it’s surprising how rarely astrologers actually get together and then read charts in front of each other, so that you can see how different astrologers do consultations; and sometimes that can inform your practice in interesting ways. And I was really surprised at how unexpected that was as a thing that you were doing as part of OPA, and how unique it was, but definitely very important and very interesting.
MF: Yeah. And like you say, one of the things is to learn about each other. Astrology is so diverse. There are so many ways to get to sometimes the same point, but different avenues. We have to learn from each other. And the other thing also is to show vulnerability, not just where you’re strong and where you can read the charts and get to, you know, insights; but also see what’s not working, where you feel stuck, or if you had any kind of particular episode where you had problems with a client and that wasn’t resolved. So it’s working both on strengths and weaknesses.
CB: Definitely. And it fills an interesting and needed gap; like, for example, some aspects of the medical field are kind of similar to astrology. And one of the things that I always thought would be useful is, you know, some kind of residency program where astrologers could practice astrology and start delineating charts under the guidance of, you know, somebody that was more experienced. And what you’re doing with some of the OPA retreats and the OPA peer group work seems to almost fit a similar need in terms of helping to provide some guidance or some other ‘eyes’ on a person’s consulting style and being able to give them feedback, you know, as part of that practice. So it’s interesting how you’re exploring that. It’s a much needed avenue in the field.
MF: Yeah, I’m glad you noticed that because it is needed and we don’t have it. And the other thing that OPA is doing, actually next month for the first time, we have an event called I-Astrologer. And this event is designed specifically to support people who are practicing or people who would like to begin to start a practice. And it is divided in two parts and the first part includes what it takes to be an astrologer—what it takes to be a successful astrologer—because it’s one thing to do it part-time and, you know, on the weekends, and it’s another thing to make a full-time income. So we’re working on how to improve your branding, how to write blogs properly, what programs/software to choose. But the other part of it, on the last day, is mentorship.
So the participants are going to be, again, split into smaller groups under the guidance of a mentor. And for the whole day they are going to discuss their practice: what they want to do, what they need to do. And not only that—but once they spend that day together, they meet three more times during the year to see the progress and where they’re at, and if they have more questions about their development. So the mentor basically stays with the participant for the whole year. And I say they meet—they will meet online or over the phone following the actual event. So it is similar to a residency, even though the mentor will not necessarily look specifically at how the person analyzes, but more about the management of the practice itself.
CB: Brilliant. So that’ll be at the conference, you said, next month?
MF: Yes, it’s March 18-20, 2016. It’s taking place in Athens, Georgia, very close to Atlanta. And, you know, we’re also very pleased with the response because we are 95% booked out now. So there’s only one or two places left, which, for us, you know, it’s confirming that this was needed.
CB: Definitely. And so, for those that can make it to the conference, maybe that would be a good segue to the book. So you recently published a new book or the Organization for Professional Astrology published a new book titled, The Professional Astrologer: Building a Successful Astrological Practice. And this is actually a pretty impressive and much-needed book. It’s almost 400-pages-long. It contains I think at least 10 different chapters on different areas of astrology and different topics that are relevant to people who want to become a practicing astrologer; to give you sort of an overview of the field basically in some sense, and the things that you need to know and be aware of. What was the genesis of this book, or what motivated it for you?
MF: Well, the book—the idea of the book was conceptualized, you know, in the early stages of OPA around the year 2001. It was published in a much smaller format, but it was a similar idea where astrologers—professionals who already had a running practice—could share their own thoughts about how to make it. Because, once again, what I personally observed in the field and when I looked at other professionals there is a major complaint that astrology is fascinating, people really love it, but they cannot make a living. It seems to be, you know, something they do for retirement or they do as a hobby or, you know, part-time. And many people don’t find the way to bridge that gap and be able to actually sustain themselves financially as professional astrologers. So we basically understood that this book, you know, as a concept is wonderful; it just needs to be updated to current times and then developed further into a more substantial volume. And like you say, there are 13 chapters that deal with different aspects of, you know, what it takes to be a good astrologer. And it’s not just to be a good astrologer, it’s to be a successful astrologer; so to make it also as short-time practice.
CB: Sure. So helpful for those not just who are trying to make the transition. I think oftentimes the biggest hurdle is even going from being an amateur to being a professional, but also that next step; which is not just making the transition, but also being successful and having a thriving practice.
MF: Yeah, exactly. So far there’s a very good response to the book. And, you know, the intention is to also update it every two-three years and basically constantly be up-to-date with what’s going on in the field and provide suggestions and basically keep guiding people in this process.
CB: Excellent. So let’s talk about some of the chapters. It’s nice because it’s very broad and it gives a very good overview. So the very first chapter—it’s titled, “The Different Orientations in Astrology,” and it talks about the different branches and different traditions in astrology in order to give the practitioner a sort of familiarity with the different approaches that you’re gonna find within the field as a profession and to sort of orientate people, I guess. I mean, what motivated you to have that chapter? Or what was the thinking behind that?
MF: Well, that chapter, like you say, it’s a way for people to understand how wide and how deep and how ancient this field is. So when we speak about being a professional, we sometimes focus on our own expertise. You know, we can be horary astrologers, or we can be predictive, or we can be, you know, sidereal astrologers, Vedic astrologers. And here, even though most of us have a broad idea of what is out there and what’s available, it’s just to show the different services, the different applications that astrology provides. And I believe in this chapter we already have a discussion about another book that would be about understanding what is astrology and what makes astrology work.
MF: So that chapter will also serve, you know, that idea. But in this particular context, it is about showing if you are a professional, you know, what are the different options as a professional.
CB: Sure. And I think that’s good because then it gives people also something that’s sometimes overlooked; having a familiarity with the different traditions and the different applications of astrology is sometimes useful as a practicing astrologer because sometimes a person will come to you looking for something that you don’t necessarily do, or that you don’t necessarily specialize in. But if you have a familiarity or an awareness of different astrologers that do practice that topic, then you can refer clients to those people.
CB: Yeah, and I should state that that chapter was written primarily by Donna Young who’s a brilliant Kepler graduate, and who was on my track at the OPA retreat, so I really thought she did a good job there. Then the second chapter is on “Building and Sustaining a Successful Practice.” And that one was primarily written by you, right?
MF: Yes. And, you know, this chapter basically covers a little bit of everything. But the focus of this particular chapter—the intention of this chapter is it is possible to make it. It is possible to be a full-time astrologer and to have a comfortable income because, as I said earlier, it seems to be something that intimidates people who think about this. You know, another part of the book that I would like to speak about leading to this chapter is that it begins with a survey.
CB: Oh, yeah, the surveys were great. Some of the data you had in those was really excellent.
MF: Yes. You know, the whole first section of the books is a survey on who are the astrologers: 80% female. Most people who practice astrology are not full-time. Most people, you know, voice the fact that they are intimidated by the financial aspect and the self-promotion.
MF: So focusing on the survey gives an idea of where we’re at. And so, my chapter answers that and basically provides strategies and ideas on how to make it happen and discusses, you know, what are some of the problems: whether it’s the fact that astrology is not integrated into the mainstream; we’re intimidated by the scientific community or sometimes even the religious institutions who, you know, see astrology as blasphemy. So it basically discusses the whole state of affairs for this profession and how to overcome that and what are the benefits.
CB: Sure. And even perhaps overcoming some of the stigma surrounding it. I mean, it’s interesting ‘cause, on the one hand, in speaking to astrologers directly and to people that are amateur astrologers that don’t do it professionally or don’t do it full-time, you have to be in this position of sort of encouraging people that they can make it, that it is possible to make it. Although it’s interesting from an outsider’s perspective because of the negative public perceptions of astrology where skeptics or debunkers will say that astrologers are just, you know, ripping people off, or they’re all about stealing people’s money or something like that.
And so, it’s actually funny when actual practitioners or amateur practitioners of astrology are extremely sensitive and extremely careful about making that transition—and are sometimes overly-careful—where they don’t want to be seen as doing that. They don’t want to be seen as practicing the subject until they’re like, you know, a master astrologer, or until they, you know, know all of the secrets of the universe in some sense. And so, it’s interesting the role that you’re in to some extent with the chapter on encouraging people and showing them what others have done and, you know, how to do it, and that it is possible and that it’s not something that you have to feel a stigma surrounding.
MF: Yeah, absolutely. You know, if we just also jump ahead a little bit, the last section of the book where you participate as well is professional astrologers being interviewed about their practice. And one of the questions is how comfortable are they saying they’re astrologers publicly? And I was very surprised to see that many astrologers, seasoned astrologers, were very self-conscious about any saying that they were practicing astrology. And it’s completely understandable because astrology is stigmatized today, and it’s not taken seriously, at least not enough. So that, to me, you know, is showing that there’s a lot of work needed here; but it also shows, again, where we’re at. And one of the things that can be an obstacle to making it is hiding, you know, not being confident enough to say it. It doesn’t matter how good you are as a practitioner. If you’re not confident to assert yourself as such, it’s going to, you know, block your creativity and visibility.
CB: Right. You’ve got to put yourself out there quite literally as an astrologer in order to make it as a professional in the field.
MF: Yeah. And overcome, you know, the self-consciousness because that’s part of changing mentalities. You know, if no one says that they’re astrologers, and they say they’re ‘consultants’ or they use other terms, then we don’t educate the public. You know, we need to come out of the closet.
CB: Sure. Yeah, I mean, that’s been an issue that’s been coming up a little bit. I think Lee Lehman gave a keynote lecture actually a few years ago at Kepler where she sort of likened it to some of the struggles that the gay community has had in terms of coming out; maybe not quite in that extreme in the sense of persecution to some extent, but at least in drawing parallels in terms of the public perception. And that thing that you picked up on that really comes through very clearly in that chapter is where many of the astrologers do say that if somebody in casual conversation asks what you do, they don’t necessarily come out and say that they’re an astrologer. There’s such a wide range of different public perceptions of astrology—the majority of which are negative—that it’s very easy for someone to take that the wrong way and to think something, you know, sort of terrible about you as the person saying that just by putting it out there. That’s definitely something that would be nice to change.
MF: Exactly. And there are two things I want to add about that. If people think that astrologers are, like you were saying, you know, fortune-tellers who are not serious, and who may even be fraudulent…
MF: …when you as an educated person, as someone who people respect—or you may even have an academic degree—if you suddenly say in that public conversation that you are an astrologer, you are immediately changing the stereotype. “What do you mean? You don’t wear a cape?” They start to see that there are serious people, educated people, people that they respect otherwise are actually practicing. And, you know, if we don’t express that they will never know, and there won’t be a dialogue; you know, they won’t ask. And the other thing is—you know, once again comparing it perhaps with ‘coming out of the closet’—I personally pay now a lot of attention to Astrology Day, which is the day of the equinox, March 20 or 21…
MF: …to celebrate astrology, and for us to be proud of our profession, to really understand that we are offering an extraordinary service. Something that I think even other modalities that maybe compared to astrology—you know, diagnostic, anything that helps people being coached and provides perspective; whether it’s graphology, or whether it’s, you know, other forms of counseling—they don’t get to the depth or the resolution that astrology can provide. So we really need to be proud of what we’re doing. And I think highlighting Astrology Day, as we at OPA quite often, is part of that.
CB: Sure. Yeah, that’s become a pretty popular, pretty widespread thing across the astrological community over the past few years it seems, or maybe over the past decade.
MF: Yeah. You know, along those lines, we also published in the book an oath, the astrologer’s oath, which I think also speaks about that; about the importance of the service we provide.
CB: Sure. And that was something that you had written prior to the OPA retreat in October, right?
MF: Yes. Well, it’s something I had in mind to write for a while because I, myself, am teaching astrology; you know, it’s a pretty rigorous program. And so, when the students were coming to completion, and they went through all the different stages of the program, it felt necessary for them, you know, to make that commitment, to affirm themselves as astrologers. You know, I wanted to write it, but I finally found the words just as this book was being published in the final stages; so I was glad to be able to include it.
CB: Yeah, that was definitely a great thing to include. Would you like to read it?
MF: So you can use parts of it, or you can use the whole thing. The infinity of the sky has cohesion. The astral plane reveal a logic to which nature fully resonates and aligns. If few are initiated in this art of interpretation of celestial science and existential meaning, I am one. I recognize the privilege and the responsibility to serve humanity as an astrologer, be the channel between above and below, remain grounded, clear of prejudice, and openhearted, respectfully, gracefully, and truthfully. I pledge to assist those who seek higher guidance, direct them to the space, the time, and the way as depicted in the map of geocosmic cycles. I will enlighten them in the perspective that despite trials and tribulations, their lives are intrinsic to an intelligent cosmic order. These suggestions shall be made to the best of my humble understanding. Whether venerated or depreciated publicly in this task, I shall not falter, aware of the merit of this honorable calling.
CB: Brilliant. It’s funny, I mean, when you first read that it sounded quite similar to an oath that’s given in an astrological text in the 2nd century by Vettius Valens. He actually makes the readers swear a very similar oath to astrology…
CB: …as a sort of mystery tradition. So I thought it was really interesting when I first heard you read that in October, some of the similarities, since of course you wrote yours independently.
MF: Yeah, I’d like to read that one. That’s interesting.
CB: Yeah, and that’s actually funny; it ties into something we had an exchange about briefly on Facebook recently. But you said that your family or your lineage comes from the island of Kos?
MF: Yes, it was my mother who was born and raised in Kos, in Greece. You know, I found out only later that this was where the first astrology school in ancient Greece was established.
CB: Yeah, there’s legends about a Mesopotamian astrologer named Berossus in the early 3rd century BCE immigrating from Mesopotamia to Greece and setting up a school for astrology on the island of Kos and then having students who went onto practice and expand the art. And then within a century or two after that is when suddenly astrology in the Greek language explodes out of nowhere. And so, it’s usually assumed that that school in Kos had a lot to do with that.
MF: Wow. Amazing. And, you know, if we visit Kos now—I went a couple of times recently—there was barely any mention of that because it’s the same island where Hippocrates was practicing medicine. And so, the medical oath is very, you know, well-known across the world, and many people come for pilgrimage to the island for that; the astrology part is obscure. Yeah, I was glad to research that.
CB: Yeah. Yeah, it’s just a really interesting little piece of history. And it’s interesting hearing 2,000 years later other astrologers having, you know, family in that area or coming from that area and going on to play a major role in the tradition as well. So backing up a little bit, you had mentioned that in some of the polls that were done of the OPA membership, there were about I think 230 people interviewed, so it was a decent sample size. But some of the responses that you got to some of these polls were really interesting and really I thought informative about both the nature of the astrological community and its composition today, as well as some of the challenges that we have as a community going forward in terms of expanding it into other areas where perhaps things aren’t going a well, or in which maybe there’s work to do. What were some of the big takeaways for you from some of those polls that were done?
MF: Yes, first of all, the poll was done, you know, mostly with the OPA members, but also outside of it. I published it on Facebook, and whoever felt comfortable, you know, responding that’s what we got. And I hope that when we update the book in a few years, we will even have, you know, more responses. But it was extremely revealing. You know, some of it we already knew, most of us, but the fact that we could actually put numbers to it was revealing. And I think, to me, you know, the most important one was to see that 90% of people who practice astrology are above their 40s, and 55% are above 57.
CB: Right. That was a really wild statistic that almost the entirety of it was 40-and-above basically.
MF: 40-and-above, and even more than half, 57-and-above. And we chose that age as roughly the second Saturn return.
MF: So, you know, people would be more comfortable, more confident to start practicing as a retirement plan. And, you know, I discussed the different reasons for that. Part of it is because people don’t want to take the financial risk when they have to raise families, so they do it as a retirement plan. And other times it’s simply because younger people are not informed that they can become astrologers and that it’s even an option.
MF: So people are not raised to consider it. You know, what do you want to be when you grow up? You want to be a pilot. You want to be a doctor. Astrology’s not part of the vocabulary. So it’s not only a financial dilemma. It’s also people finding out about astrology later in life and then committing to it, studying it, and then eventually being ready to practice it.
CB: That makes sense. Yeah, it’s not something you can study in college or something like that; or that a high school guidance counselor, you know, advises you to go that path.
MF: Yeah, absolutely. And then, you know, the other question was about gender. 80% of the people who replied were women. It’s very common to know that most of the people who are involved in astrology are female; to me, it has a lot to do with socioeconomic bias.
MF: You know, some people say, well, women are maybe more intuitive and that’s why they are more attracted to astrology. But my feeling is that it’s not really that because when you look at the actual quality of service, male and female do it equally well. You know, there’s no real discrepancy between females doing much better astrology than males or vice versa. So I don’t think it has to do with our hormonal talents, but it’s more of, again, a social conditioning factor.
CB: Sure. Yeah, and I’m sure there’s a lot of social factors that go into it, especially when you factor in some of the other data points that come through in the poll in terms of the age skewing towards people at least above their 40s and even more so above their 50s or 60s. But then there were other data points that were interesting as well, such as you asked the question, “Do you rely primarily on the income of your astrology practice to sustain yourself and grow?” And 70% of the people said no. It was only 30% of the people that said they rely primarily on their income from their astrology practice.
MF: Yeah. Again, very telling. And actually in some ways, I expected less than that, to tell you the truth.
CB: Yeah, that does seem a little high.
MF: Yeah, but it’s still low from what it should be, but encouraging that there are 30% of practitioners out there that are able to, you know, sustain themselves.
CB: Sure. And, I mean, that’s kind of interesting and insightful in terms of the astrological community in general because that means the vast majority of the people that we would otherwise consider astrologers are not necessarily full-time, practicing astrologers, per se. They’re people that sort of believe in astrology as a legitimate phenomenon and even practice the subject—either for themselves or for actual clients—but, you know, many of them have other jobs, or they have other professions, or they have side jobs or things like that.
MF: Mm-hmm. You know, it is kind of a cycle that feeds itself because if you have another job, it also means you can’t grow your astrology practice because it demands its own focus and time. So on the one hand, you want to do it professionally; on the other hand, you know, you want to secure your financial income, so you have other things, the time, and compromise for astrology.
CB: Yeah. Yeah, that’s interesting in terms of even just astrological research and other things like that. Just thinking about this small number of people that are really doing it full-time compared to what it could be perhaps if more people were able to make it in the field and know that they could; perhaps we’d have even more people out there, you know, doing something positive and expanding the field even more so than now, I guess I should say.
MF: Yeah. You know, astrology benefited tremendously—and I mean the professional aspect of it—from the internet revolution because astrologers could expand beyond their own private environment; they could find clients all over the world. You know, the internet allowed astrologers to increase their pool of clients and gain more visibility so cheaply and so easily, relatively speaking, and that I think was a major step toward the development of the profession. I think that without the internet, we would have been struggling considerably more. But I think that the next step, you know, is to work on educating the public because there’s so much you will be able to do with the internet.
You know, we’ve reached a wider audience, we made this giant step into professional practice, but we’ll also reach a certain plateau or a certain dead-end as far as our growth if we don’t also invest in educating the public. You know, unless you speak to people who are already experienced with astrology, the moment you get out of the door, out of that community, out of that client pool, and you meet everyday people, it is staggering to see, you know, how stigmatized and how misunderstood and vilified even astrology is. People have very aggressive responses to it. And I think, you know, we can talk about that, but I think that would be the next step, to change that; and I know a lot of people are working on that. I know the Astrology News Service, you know, has published a book and has a website for that purpose, so we are aware of it.
CB: Sure. Yeah, definitely changing part of the narrative surrounding astrology I think is definitely one of the biggest hurdles and the biggest challenges or goals of the astrological community in the 21st century; it’ll also be very difficult. But I think definitely this first step in showing more astrologers and more people that they can make it as an astrologer and showing them how to do it is a great step towards that and will eventually accomplish that goal.
CB: So just really quickly, there were just a few other data points that were just really interesting, like 70% of people said that they had additional sources of income besides astrology. 25% of people said they had an additional part-time job, or 30% an additional full-time job or a partner’s income. There was some interesting data about how much people charged for readings. Although I’m sure, you know, that’s subject to regional issues and things like that in terms of what city you’re living in.
CB: Very fascinating, “What is the most intimidating factor in being a professional astrologer?” 44% of people said that difficulty making a sustainable living financially, which really just justifies, you know, the entire purpose of the book. But also, sort of connecting with our other discussion topic, the rest of the respondents basically said either lack of credibility and criticism from society and from the scientific community of astrology, or that people don’t know enough about the value of astrology as being an intimidating factor. And then the other two that were really interesting, one was, “How have you studied astrology?” And 72% of respondents said self-taught or the internet. So there was a large group of people that were just self-taught, which is kind of interesting.
MF: Well, the one thing I need to clarify about this specific question is that people could answer more than one.
MF: So some of them were self-taught and also studied with mentors.
CB: Okay, right.
MF: But, you know, definitely part of our profession is to educate people; because if we want to gain more credibility, we also need to provide high quality service and to know what we’re talking about and to provide something that people can rely on. So, you know, I was just listening recently to an interview with Bernadette Brady, and she was mentioning how she got into the fixed stars. And the thing that she was saying is that, you know, she was an astrologer and she was practicing, and people kept asking her about the sky and about, you know, where the planets are and what’s going on out in the sky since she’s an astrologer, and she realized she didn’t know anything about the sky.
And that’s, you know, part of what I think astrologers are lacking as professionals. And I’m not just talking about having an astronomy background, but the many gaps in their education: whether it’s astronomy, whether it’s counseling, counseling skills, whether it’s, you know, coaching skills. So part of, you know, having better study programs is to also improve the profession and the credibility. And, you know, that particular question in the survey, where most people are self-taught, is something that also needs to be addressed.
CB: Yeah, education’s been a huge stumbling block, but also an ongoing debate within the astrological community over the past few decades. You know, Kepler, which started in the early 1990s—or at least they started forming it, and they did their first classes starting in 2000—was originally going to solve that issue, except the program ended up failing because they also wanted it to be academically accredited. And that’s a whole discussion that’s never really been fully had, and I was hoping to have an episode on that soon at some point. There’s been a contingent of astrologers—there’s different astrologers that have different ideas about what it’s gonna take to get astrology recognized by society as a legitimate or a valid profession or phenomenon. And one of the contingents in the community that’s always there are those that feel that academic accreditation and recognition by academia is sort of like the route to go for professional or societal validation.
And so, part of the educational program of Kepler got wrapped up in this idea about giving accredited college degrees or college diplomas, so that people could go from high school into college and actually study astrology as their primary subject in higher education. But then it turned out that that was kind of a not necessarily successful experiment, and now there’s some discussions that need to happen still or that haven’t taken place still about what the next step is astrological education. Because now we have this separate issue about certification and many different astrological organizations offering their own certification and different standards within the community and different things like that, and what it takes or what an individual astrologer should have in order to qualify them as a practitioner.
MF: Mm-hmm. And I think, you know, we are evolving. And I think that it’s gradually leading to something that most people will be happy about and standardize at least some of it. But my concern when I speak about that is what I’ve found too often is that astrologers end up betraying themselves when they are, you know, so compelled to have scientific validation. So they end up basically morphing into that box and as a result also compromising some of what astrology is.
MF: And then, also, they end up even going against one another in the community because of these disagreements of what is astrology and how we should validate it, so it becomes really a source of controversy. To me, what’s very important—as we are proud of our service and our practice—is to first of all shine and let that speak for itself rather than constantly trying to please the critics, and be patient with that process, while we remain, you know, very focused on providing quality service. Because the other part of it—that I see another development in the community that I’m really appreciating—is to allow new research in astrology.
There’s always a fear that people who bring new information and new research are basically bringing fanciful information that’s not very verified and ends up, you know, putting astrology into a ‘hocus-pocus’ area where everyone makes up their own techniques, and each person can come up with different definitions that they project. So where is the research? Where is the new development serving astrology and where isn’t it? So sometimes wanting that credibility kind of blocks creativity; it blocks further research. And I was very happy to see that there are efforts in this direction, and notably there’s a conference next year organized by David Cochran in Florida, and it’s called the Kepler Conference. It’s not related to Kepler College. It’s just the same name, but it’s a different thing, and it focuses on research. So that’s something to look forward to and I think part of our discussion here.
CB: Yeah, that tension between, you know, tradition vs. innovation, it seems like it’s a constant thing in the history of astrology that almost kind of defines astrology itself intrinsically in some way because it’s always being sort of transmitted and moved forward. There’s always this theme of ancient knowledge from the past being passed forward, but then this other theme of new insights and new developments coming into the fold and having to be integrated at the same time. And there’s something interesting about that as sort of a core principle in astrology almost.
MF: Yeah. And so, the rigor I believe must be in the quality of research, as well as the final results, you know. And what I’m concerned about in our community is that compromise of self; and I see it, in a way, as betraying our own selves in the process of yearning for validation.
CB: Right. Yeah, that’s always a temptation. And, you know, that definitely happened to some extent, for example, in some of the things that were happening in attempts to validate astrology scientifically in ‘80s and ‘90s. For example, you had people like Michel Gauquelin saying that we should only use things that can be validated statistically, which, for him, really narrowed it down to just a handful of things—like angular planets basically, or planets in plus zones, like with the ‘Mars’ effect—and then to basically reject everything else. But then that’s a theme I feel like they went through like when I was talking about the educational issue and the question of is academic accreditation the litmus test for something that’s valid, that’s a valid subject of study, or is that a dead-end for astrologers to go down, that’s gonna make us, you know, lose a lot of what makes astrology useful and unique.
CB: All right, so moving on just to some of the other chapters, you have a chapter by Sandra-Leigh Serio on “Consultations, Counseling and Ethical Considerations,” which is a really important topic to bring up anytime you’re talking about, you know, doing counseling or seeing clients, especially in the past decade or decade-and-a-half. It seems like a lot of the astrological organizations have made ethical guidelines a primary focus, or at least that’s something that’s become integrated into their programs.
CB: So it’s good to see that you have that there. After that, you have a chapter by Chris McRae on “The Financial Equation,” which deals with some of the different financial and tax issues associated with having a private practice.
MF: Yeah, the fourth and the fifth and the sixth chapters are dealing with that. Chris McRae, Georgia Stathis, and Anne Ortelee discuss the financial equation from different angles, which is obviously, you know, what we talked about—the fear that people have not to be able to generate an income. So many astrologers are intimidated by that aspect, and yet, you know, it is something that is accessible, and with just a little bit of care and attention, can be easily managed.
CB: Yeah, and Anne Ortelee’s chapter is great on having a business plan. And actually something that was interesting at the OPA retreat that you guys really emphasized is not just doing it sort of willy-nilly, but instead actually planning, you know, what you want your practice to look like in a year or in five years or ten years and just sort of have an outline for accomplishing that.
MF: You know, having a vision and then putting the numbers to your vision, it helps; it’s just a no-brainer there. But as astrologers, we tend to be more, you know, philosophical or spiritual or into more of the art of interpretation, and we disregard the practical side. So we need that balance, and hopefully that will help people in that direction.
CB: Definitely. Let’s see, Chapter 6 is by Robbie Woodliff and Leisa Schaim on “Legal Issues in the Practice of Astrology,” which is just really great in terms of giving an almost historical overview about the legality of astrology and some of the issues that astrologers need to be aware of in terms of that.
MF: You know, it’s an excellent, excellent chapter. And I’m so grateful for this contribution because, first of all, I didn’t know myself some of these stories which were very intimidating, but at the same time to see the progress and to see how to address the legal issues without panicking, so to speak. So yeah, I think it’s very revealing.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And also seeing what the precedents have been in terms of some of the court cases when, especially two or three decades ago, there were some issues with astrologers being prosecuted or being arrested or having their practices shut down. And some of those cases were fought by organizations such as AFAN and ended up winning largely on the grounds of free speech, at least in the US; and that precedent has largely been set as a precedent since that time.
MF: You know, I will also tell you—we speak of legal issues and we speak of the credibility of astrology—I heard so many stories from colleagues and students who were harassed by their own families, you know, in the same way. Not legally, you know. It wasn’t a lawsuit or anything like that, but it was the intense pressure coming from their own families; some of them seeing it, you know, as deviant practice. So it is changing, and this chapter highlights both the concerns and the solutions.
CB: Excellent. And then Wendy Stacey has a chapter titled, “The Times are a-Changin’.” And could you talk a little bit about that chapter?
MF: Yes. You know, we kind of divided the chapter into themes; so we have a financial theme and a legal theme. And then from the seventh chapter to the following ones, it’s about the new approach to counseling, to practice. And Wendy begins this with emphasizing, you know, if we look at the history of astrology, where are we at now? And what are the practicalities of this time where we use mobile phones, where everything is happening so quickly? So we’re not just talking about, you know, what needs to happen in actual counseling, but also the different tools we have today, the different cultural context of the 21st century, and how that colors and directs our practice. So she did a great job there.
CB: Yeah, that was a great contribution ‘cause she has her own little monograph on setting up an astrology practice, and it was nice to see that she drew some of the insights from that as well.
CB: Okay, and then Monica Dimino has a chapter on “Building a Feedback Loop into Your Professional Practice,” which is just about expanding your clientele, but also, you know, having a long-term clientele.
MF: Well, it’s the management, you know. Once again, being an astrologer is not only understanding what Venus means in such a place.
MF: It entails management of your clients. It’s service. You know, it’s the consciousness of service, and it’s the efficiency of financial investment, and it’s self-promotion. So Monica focuses on, you know, the service aspect. Not just having clients, but keeping a rapport with them and what it takes; so the rapport between client and practitioner. Particularly as astrologers, you know, we often offer single reading formats. You know, we see our clients once, they get their information, and there’s no real process and follow-up. And that can be lacking, so that’s part of it.
CB: Definitely. And let’s see—and then tied in with that is Jacqueline Janes’ “Counseling Techniques for the Consulting Astrologer,” where she talks about psychological and some other counseling techniques that are useful to be aware of if you’re gonna start, you know, seeing clients. Regardless of what type of astrology you use, you have to be aware of some of these modern counseling techniques for interacting with individuals in that sort of setting.
MF: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. How to deliver. How to deliver the message. Astrologers, I find, personally, can find themselves in situations where they talk too much and they lecture in a reading—you know, “You’re like this and you’re like that, and this is what you should do”—and the client is just either shocked or taking it in or not able to really provide feedback.
MF: Or you have the opposite tendency where the astrologer asks too many questions and lets the client speak sometimes to an extent where they don’t provide enough guidance, and it’s only, you know, letting the client speak; so the other opposite is also an issue. So how to navigate that and find the balance between leading the session, but also having a dialogue and not a lecture?
CB: Right. Yeah, that’s very important.
CB: Let’s see—and then Arlan Wise has a chapter on “Writing and Astrology,” which is very important since that’s usually the primary way in which astrologers go about getting the word out there about their work and about their practice.
MF: Yeah, and this is something we’re gonna emphasize also in the coming event, I-Astrologer. We’re gonna have writing workshops for astrologers because, once again, you can know your astrology, but to convey it is another story. You know, we all know that once there’s a Full Moon—if you’re on Facebook and you’re part of the astrology community—you have dozens of blogs about that Full Moon and what it means and what it’s about, and that’s wonderful to see the creativity. But when you read some of them, you know, are they really informative? Who are you speaking to? Are you speaking to a crowd of astrologers? Are you speaking to people who have no background at all? So how to write in a way that’s accessible, but without losing quality is an art. And astrologers work a lot online. The internet, the blogging, the websites are a major part of the practice, so writing well is essential.
CB: Definitely. Especially in the internet age where everybody has a website or a blog or something like that, and knowing not just what to write, but how to write, and how to do it effectively.
CB: So the next chapter, Chapter 11, Frank Clifford’s chapter ties into that where he talks about writing for print and gives a sort of practical guide for getting published, whether that’s a book or a magazine or what have you.
MF: Yeah, ‘cause he has tremendous experience. He’s a publisher himself and a writer.
CB: He’s a prolific publisher.
MF: Yeah. And so, I think that many astrologers—you know, I don’t know if everyone will end up publishing a book, but they will publish articles. And it’s not just blogs, but how to actually be published in magazines and so forth. So yeah, Frank was really an important contributor to this.
CB: And that’s also important because publishing is changing very radically…
CB: …in the past few years even, with many astrologers shifting towards self-publishing and print-on-demand services and many big book publishers not really publishing that many astrology books anymore.
MF: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I was, myself, caught in that transitional era. I wanted to publish my own books when, you know, the book industry was crashing.
MF: You know, the internet killed many libraries and the publishing process. So many publishers did not want to take any risks and it was very difficult to get published. And on the other hand, being self-published, you know, is a huge undertaking because you need to take care of promotion and everything. But today even publishers will expect you to do most of the promotional work. You know, they’re not going to invest in a book the way they used to do 15 or 20 years ago.
CB: Right. Yeah, so that’s a great chapter to have in there. And then Alexandra Karacostas has a chapter on the power of peer group work, which is what we talked about earlier just in terms of the importance of that and the sort of pivotal role that it plays in OPA.
MF: Mm-hmm. And in a healthy community of professionals anywhere. You know, if you want to be a professional, if you want to sustain your practice, it’s vital. I hope it’s going to be an integral part of our profession to be able to connect with other professionals in that way.
CB: Definitely. And then, finally, Kay Taylor has a chapter on “Professional Development and the Community of Astrology.”
MF: Yes, and this is basically understanding the greater community of astrology and how we are who we are today in the 21st century. So she discusses the current cultural context, the different organizations, you know, how they started, who was part of what, what were the challenges, where it was then, where it is today; so how we have evolved as a community, as a field. And she did an excellent job really covering all that ‘cause it’s not easy research. And this also ties into the last section of the book, which is kind of an index where we have a list of all the organizations, all the schools, all the magazines, all the software—anything that is accessible and part of our practice; so how to network, you know, where to network. So she spoke of the history of that and then there’s a whole list of contacts and items.
CB: Yeah, that’s a brilliant directory. It lists research websites. It lists astrological bookstores and magazines. It lists all of the local astrology groups in different areas. It’s pretty comprehensive. And then, finally, you’ve got a very large section of interviews with several different prominent, professional astrologers, such as Steven Forrest, Melanie Reinhart, Linea Van Horn, Ray Merriman, and lots of other people that give really insightful responses about both their past in the field of astrology and getting into the profession, but also different tips that they in some instances gives for people that are just getting into the field now and what they would do or what they would advise, which I thought was really great.
MF: Well, you know, the idea of this was obviously to share it directly from those who made it and who are experienced and what they went through. So bringing a personal story. Not just theory, not just writing a chapter on a subject, but speak about you. And, you know, the people we selected were purposely chosen for different reasons: people from different age groups, younger astrologers, older astrologers coming from different countries. You know, we had Hakan from Turkey and people who are very well-known, such as Ray Merriman who is himself the president of ISAR, and also people who are not as visible, not as prominent, but have a running practice and do well without having to be, you know, in such wide visibility. So we kind of chose different people who could show how it’s diverse and culturally-diverse, generationally-diverse, and also the different practitioners. For example, we chose Madalyn Hillis-Dineen who is a software manager.
MF: So this basically tells us that it’s not just about reading charts, you can do many different things. You can develop software and also be an astrologer.
CB: Sure. So she works with Astrolabe, which is the company that makes Solar Fire at this point.
CB: Yeah, that’s a great section. I mean, that was one of my favorite sections of the book just to see different people’s responses, and sometimes very insightful or very personal responses about how people felt about their practice and what they did or what things were difficult for them. And it was a very broad overview. It was a good collection of different voices.
MF: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
CB: All right, well, that brings us pretty much to the end of the book. So like I said, I thought it was a great book. I’m excited that you guys published this, and I really just wanted to congratulate you because I think this is an important contribution to the astrological community.
MF: Thank you.
CB: So people can find out more information about OPA and about the book in general on the OPA website. What’s the website address, again?
MF: It’s opaastrology.org. And people can obviously become members and be part of our publications. As I said, it’s open to practitioners, students, amateurs. And we not only, you know, involve people in these programs, but we also want to provide a support system for people in the process. And the book is available on Amazon or on the OPA website. And hopefully, with time, it’s also gonna be available in some bookstores. And the Kindle, you know, the ebook edition will also be ready very soon.
CB: Excellent. And you guys offer membership and that gives people access to things like a free monthly webinar and a quarterly magazine and other things like that, right?
MF: Yeah. So every month, members have access to a lecture from members of the community, some of them very well-known astrologers, some of them, you know, people who actually need a platform to showcase their research; so usually very well-attended. And we have the publications which come every quarter. So a very creative organization, very vital, and we appreciate people becoming members to support our efforts, as well as us supporting them.
CB: Excellent. And you’ll be doing the I-Astrologer conference next month. And then you’re having another conference in Greece coming up pretty soon as well, right?
MF: Yes. Actually the funny, funny thing is that it’s Athens, Georgia and then it’s Athens, Greece.
MF: So quite the synchronicity there. And the reason we chose Greece to have a conference—it’s the end of May; it’s May 27; leading to a whole journey to the island and some of the sacred sites, such as Delphi and Delos—is to actually experience some of the origins of modern astrology and, you know, the Hellenistic roots. And so, today Greece is very challenged—as the cat confirms. Greece is very challenged economically, so it’s bringing, infusing, you know, our presence there and supporting them and then experiencing the beauty of Greece in one. So that’s the end of May.
CB: Okay, great. And that has what seems like a really great international lineup of speakers, so it should be a good one. All right, and people can find out more information about OPA at opaastrology.org. And you also do, obviously, consultations and have a thriving practice. What’s your website, Maurice?
MF: MauriceFernandez.com, yes.
CB: Okay, excellent. All right, well, thanks a lot for joining me. I’ll put a link to where people can order the book on the page for this episode. And I definitely encourage people to order it and check it out since I think it’s an excellent contribution to the field. And I’ll have to have you back sometime to discuss some of these other issues that we sort of touched on a little bit more in extended discussion.
MF: Wonderful. And thank you, Chris, for everything you do in being such an important engine for our community and for the advancement of our field. I know you are passionate and you do a great job.
CB: Well, thank you. All right, well, thanks everyone for listening to this episode, and we’ll see you next time.